If funding allows, local kids could soon have a safer way to reach the recreational amenities surrounding the Signal Mountain Town Hall Complex.
The town of Signal Mountain has applied for two federal grants that, if awarded, would allow the town to build a 5-foot-wide sidewalk connecting the tennis courts, gym, pool and baseball fields on the property.
The new walkway would span from the intersection of James Boulevard and Rolling Way to Hedges Baseball Field, connecting with the existing sidewalks on James Boulevard.
"What we're trying to do is provide more connectivity in our sidewalk system as a whole," said Loretta Hopper, the town's public works director. "Where we've had existing sidewalks, we'd like to connect that with other parts of town."
The project would also include a new crosswalk at James Boulevard and Rolling Way, which Hopper said was one of the biggest problem areas residents had identified in previous meetings about the project.
The intersection is very steep and has limited visibility, noted Jennifer Williams, regional planner for the Southeast Tennessee Development District. To rectify the issue, the crosswalk will be outfitted with proper lighting.
"Having a designated pedestrian path and a lit crosswalk is very useful to improve safety — especially for kids," Williams said.
Those walking or biking from the subdivisions along James Boulevard won't be the only ones affected; the walkway would also provide a safer route for kids who walk along Taft Highway to get to and from the pool, Hopper said.
Looking further into the future, Hopper said the goal is to expand the sidewalk to the Pruett's-anchored business district, where she noted kids sometimes head to eat after a day at the pool.
"I think it's a good project," she said. "I think it will be really used by a lot of people."
The project would likely cost about $409,600, Hopper said. If the town was awarded both grants, each provided by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, officials would have to choose one to fund the construction. The first grant is from TDOT's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and the second is from TDOT's Transportation Alternatives Program. Both would fund 80 percent of the construction, and the town would pay for the remaining 20 percent.
This is the second time the town has applied for a grant for the project. The last grant it applied for, from TDOT's Transportation Improvement Program, was denied.
An informal group of local planners has been meeting for several months to discuss the town's lack of trails, sidewalks and bike lanes. The group will continue the discussion about fostering town-wide connectivity during an open house session at town hall Monday, Oct. 30, when they will present their master plan to bring more alternative transportation infrastructure to Signal Mountain.
The open house will be from 5-7 p.m. Public input is welcome.