This story was updated at 4:48 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020, with more information.
The main gateway to Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport will undergo a big upgrade as Shepherd Road is turned into a tree-lined, boulevard-like artery, officials said Thursday.
The $760,000 project between Highway 153 and Airport Road will feature 102 trees, landscaping, a 10-foot-wide sidewalk and a bike path.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the work that's slated to start in a couple of weeks will boost the airport and the Shepherd community.
"When you improve public space, development often follows," he said.
City Councilman Russell Gilbert said the work will help beautify the area.
"This is a beginning," Gilbert said. "It's a long time coming."
Terry Hart, the airport's chief executive, said the project emerged during the crafting of the city's airport district plan looking at future growth in the area.
Enhancing the road will offer travelers to the Scenic City a better first impression of the airport and of Chattanooga, he said.
"With all the projected growth, what a great way to get our customers in here," Hart said.
Last year, the airport posted its sixth consecutive year of record passenger traffic, jetting past last year's mark by nearly 10% to 554,050 boardings. Airport officials are planning for more growth with its first parking garage and a passenger terminal expansion.
Berke said the city is providing $660,000 for construction, while the airport is putting up $100,000 for design. Work is expected to take about 180 days to finish, officials said.
Shepherd Road will remain five lanes, but each lane will be narrowed to permit the sidewalk, bike path, trees and shrubbery, according to officials.
Melissa Kelly, a Chattanooga Department of Transportation project manager, said the trees that will line the roadway will be tulips, sweet gums and lindens.
She said the sidewalk and bike path will go on the east side of the road.
Shepherd Road carries up to 7,000 vehicles daily and the speed limit is 30 mph, but Berke noted that motorists often drive faster. He expected that drivers will slow down due to the streetscaping.
He predicted that more private investment in the Shepherd community and at the airport will follow the work.
Dan Jacobson, the Airport Authority's chairman, said the area will benefit from the changes as will Lovell Field.
"It's a great addition," he said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.