The Chattanooga City Council votes Tuesday on Mayor Andy Berke's proposed $80 million capital budget for 2017.
"Some of the things that get me excited in the budget are smaller projects in funding but really important to neighborhoods," Berke said in a recent interview. "We've really worked on improving pedestrian access. When you go to neighborhood meetings, you hear about sidewalks a lot."
The budget includes $45.2 million for projects related to sewer, solid waste and water quality services. Another $36.6 million is earmarked for public safety, transportation and a variety of development services.
Councilman Chris Anderson praised the capital proposals in an email.
"This year's capital budget focuses on the greatest needs in our city," Anderson said. "I'm especially proud of the projects in my district like new sidewalks on Dodds Avenue in East Lake and the trail development in Alton Park that will eventually connect to the [Tennessee] Riverwalk. After years of neglect, the most underserved parts of our community are seeing investment."
The Dodds Avenue project, funded through a $377,250 Community Development Block Grant, calls for the new and renovated sidewalks from Rossville Boulevard to East 36th Street, near East Lake Youth and Family Development Center, East Lake Academy and East Lake Park.
The 1.2-mile Alton Park connector costs $35,000 and uses the CSX rail line from 38th Street at Central Avenue, along the Bell School site, to the Middle Street Riverwalk trailhead. A park is planned for the former school site.
Other pedestrian projects include a sidewalk for Browns Ferry Road from Lake Road to Elder Mountain Road and a new greenway connection between Moore Road and the Cromwell Heights neighborhood.
A new, $6 million Youth and Family Development Center for the Avondale community accounts for 17 percent of capital expenditures not tied to the Interceptor Sewer System, water quality and solid waste projects. The new facility will double the size of the current one.
"Avondale is a huge investment in the neighborhoods of East Chattanooga," Berke said.
The budget also invests $500,000 in new classrooms for the Chambliss Center for Children, which provides early education opportunities for children who mostly live at or below poverty level. The new classrooms will serve an additional 100 students; the current waiting list includes more than 400 children.
The multi-year project to rehab the Walnut Street Bridge will receive$1 million. According to Chattanooga's five-year plan, that figure will grows to $8.4 million in 2018, including $5.6 million in federal funding.
Berke said maintaining infrastructure takes priority over other items at times.
"A lot of times the projects you want are the projects that end up with something new, but we also have to invest in keeping things up to standard," Berke said. "Walnut Street Bridge is something people love in our community. We're making sure that's a safe and wonderful place for people to enjoy our city."
Councilman Larry Grohn, who was critical of a number of operating budget items, cited some concerns with the capital budget.
"I just wish we could put a little more into our infrastructure," Grohn said.
Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@times freepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.