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Mickey Cruz, left, and Jennifer Rush ride bicycles on a completed section of a new sidewalk for bicycles and pedestrians under construction along Highway 58 on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Walking and bicycling along a heavily commercialized stretch of Highway 58 is becoming more practical as a long-awaited, $10 million project comes to fruition.

Wilson Construction began work in June on a shared-use sidewalk stretching 0.8 miles along Highway 58 between Webb Road and Jersey Pike.

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Jarquin (CQ) Vasques, left, and Jamie Stone of Increte Systems add pigment to concrete crossing the driveway of a business as construction is under way on a new sidewalk for bicycles and pedestrians along Highway 58 on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.
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Mickey Cruz, left, and Jennifer Rush ride bicycles on a completed section of a new sidewalk for bicycles and pedestrians under construction along Highway 58 on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The project, expected to be done by the end of the year, already is bringing pedestrian and bicycle accessibility to the seven-lane stretch of road lined with restaurants and businesses.

"Things are just opening up, and now we're able to ride our bikes and walk," said Jennifer Rush, 23, who lives in a neighborhood just off Highway 58.

She has been taking advantage of the completed portion of the project.

"Having the sidewalks right here makes it so much easier," she said.

That's just what Chattanooga traffic officials were hoping to do.

"It's really aimed to connect along the corridor [Highway 58] but also to connect neighborhoods to the corridor," city transportation engineer Bert Kuyrkendall said.

The project will feature sidewalks that branch off Highway 58 onto Jersey Pike and Oakwood Drive, Kuyrkendall said.

It also ties in with the national Safe Routes to School initiative by providing safer pedestrian access to Lakeside Academy of Math & Sciences. Eventually, the city's vision calls for the Highway 58 sidewalk to connect with the South Chickamauga Greenway.

The Transportation Planning Organization identified the project years ago because of the lack of walkability in the area. A federal grant is covering about 80 percent of the cost.

"The project is one we're really excited about because it's the result of a number of years of planning," Chattanooga Transportation Director Blythe Bailey said.

Rush, who moved to Chattanooga from Oregon just over a year ago, said she and her boyfriend use the new sidewalk at least once a week. They find it much easier to ride bicycles now.

"That's what we love to do, and the sidewalks have helped us to do that," she said. "Before, we were getting out and trying to be safe, but it wasn't as easy as it is now. It didn't hold us back, but now it's a lot easier and a lot safer, for sure."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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