Snag with TVA stalling Dayton greenway project could be blessing

Snag with TVA stalling Dayton greenway project could be blessing

December 23rd, 2018 by Ben Benton in Local Regional News

Eric Hegstrom walks around the trail at Swinging Bridge Park Wednesday, December 19, 2018 in Dayton, Tennessee. A snag with TVA has put a greenway project in Dayton, Tennessee, on hold.

Photo by Erin O. Smith

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A snag with the Tennessee Valley Authority has put the first phase of an almost-two-mile pedestrian greenway project in Dayton, Tennessee, on hold.

City officials learned a portion of property involved in the $3 million, multiphase project is not part of the original TVA master lease agreement with the city.

But the stall might be a godsend.

"There's a strip of ground between the two bridges [on Rhea County Highway and state Highway 30] that there was some miscommunication about," Dayton Mayor Gary Louallen said Wednesday.

"In the last council meeting, we agreed to commence getting the property straightened out," Louallen said. Officials plan to reapply for the same enhancement grant with a now-30-percent-higher project price tag in mind.

Officials started cooking up the idea for the greenway project in 2014 after seeing 12,000 visiting anglers at a Bassmaster Bassfest fishing tournament trying to cross four lanes of U.S. Highway 27 to get from parking areas on the downtown side to Lake Chickamauga on the other. Bryan College students have similar experiences when crossing from campus to the downtown side. Once all phases are complete, the paths will link pedestrians to the town's college, business district, walking track and shoreline at Point Park.

An almost $350,000 Tennessee Department of Transportation enhancement grant was awarded in 2016 for initial funding of the project's first phase, which will be the central section of the greenway project. Point Park and the shores of Lake Chickamauga on the east side of the highway are an activity center where events such as festivals, fishing tournaments and car shows will be linked by the greenway system to the town's economic center and most parking. This is the phase that involves pathway work to go under the bridges to dramatically improve pedestrian safety.

Rhea Economic and Tourism Council Director Dennis Tumlin said the situation involving the strip of TVA property between the bridges actually helps solve two problems; an estimated $300,000 construction cost overrun and the need to reapply for the grant to cover higher costs.

The snag wasn't found until just before the project was going to bid.

"When the engineers went to verify all the permits were in place to go forward with building this it was discovered that little parcel was not wrapped up in the master lease agreement that Dayton has with TVA, and we needed time to get the paperwork squared up to give them permission to access the property between the bridges," he said.

When design for the work for the first phase went from conceptual work to plans based on real data from the construction site, "the actual cost of construction is estimated about $300,000 above the grant application. So there was an overrun that we were going to have to solve," Tumlin said.

"Basically by pushing the pause button for a minute, we're going to be working on the access needed on the TVA strip and, simultaneously, we're going to reapply for the state grant" with a "shovel-ready" plan already in place and all the proper engineering, permits and permissions ready to go, he said.

He said officials hope the $300,000 in increased costs will be covered in the next grant, which would come with a new completion timeline for the first phase.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.