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UTC student Joe Omana, left, walks to class on the side of Third Street in front of CSAS on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015.

Officials want to turn the Third and Fourth street corridor into a grand entrance to the city for drivers coming from the east.

Plans call for green space alongside and in between lanes of Riverfront Parkway to make it more aesthetically appealing and for fixing one of the most confusing intersections in Chattanooga, where Riverfront Parkway meets Third and Fourth streets.

"We want it to be a road through a park, take advantage of the scenic values, be able to go along the river and be a grand entrance to the city," said Wade Walker of Alta Planning and Design, one of several agencies giving input on the project.

There are three options for that fix: get rid of the pre-existing intersection and have Riverfront Parkway continue, put in a major and more traditional intersection, or put in a roundabout.

"I like the roundabouts," Kathleen Puri, a local resident, said. "That way the traffic at least keeps moving."

The fix at that area and much more was discussed Thursday night at the University Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Ideas were presented by the city of Chattanooga and other consulting agencies about how to develop a stretch of land from downtown, along Third and Fourth streets past UTC and Erlanger, all the way out to Memorial Hospital.

City officials have said in the past the project is expected to cost $15 million, with 80 percent of that covered by federal funding.

An average of 14,625 drivers traverses that stretch of East Third Street daily, and 18,035 motorists drive East Fourth Street, according to Tennessee Department of Transportation figures. Riverfront Parkway carries an average 18,347 daily drivers. The city's central thoroughfare, Market Street north of M.L. King Boulevard, carries 14,647 drivers a day.

Doug Delaney, senior supervising planner for WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, laid out the three potential fixes for the currently confusing intersection. If they were to go with the first route — getting rid of the intersection completely and continuing the parkway — they would potentially create an intersection at Riverfront Parkway and Mabel Street by making the current overpass even with the ground.

Then, they would potentially get rid of a portion of Third Street. This option could make that land available for residential and commercial development.

The goal of this project isn't to do any one thing — like trying to help traffic, increase bicycling routes or economic growth — but a little bit of everything, said Blythe Bailey, Chattanooga Department of Transportation director.

"We can accommodate this plan by creating better connections," Bailey said of the road changes that need to happen.

The presentation showed before-and-after pictures of several main parts of Chattanooga officials want to change. The intersection at North Holtzclaw Avenue and McCallie Avenue — right next to the Chattanooga Zoo — was shown as it is now, and then a picture of the area could look like was shown. Several commercial shops and apartment complexes lined the road, with a reduced number of lanes and green space in the middle. This is what the goal along the whole stretch of the corridor.

The area was referred to as the "spine of the city," several times during the presentation because so many big employers are located along the stretch.

Planning will be finalized within the next couple of months, Bailey said. Construction won't begin until a few years from now.

Contact staff writer Evan Hoopfer at ehoopfer@timesfreepress.com or @EvanHoopfer on Twitter or 423-757-6731.

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