Roads and paving are the top concerns for Chattanoogans, who, by a small margin, are less happy with the city overall than they were last year, according to a new survey.
The eighth annual citizen survey by the city's internal audit office was released Monday, showing a mild decrease in satisfaction with the city and a consistent theme of infrastructure concerns across all nine districts.
According to the survey, 65% of the more than 2,000 respondents rated smoothness of streets as "very bad," and 50% of participants said street paving was most important to them, superseding other safety and quality-of-life categories.
While the road ratings are the worst they've been in the city's history of administering this survey, the concerns are not new to city leadership.
"By and large, roads are the biggest complaint I hear over and over again," District 1 Councilman Chip Henderson, who has served on the council since 2013, said Monday. "It's one thing I try to address over and over. When I took office the paving budget was $1.7 million and now we're at around $4 million. Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not. We're going to continue to concentrate on putting more money into paving and infrastructure."
While the top concerns of constituents are consistent across the nine districts, overall satisfactions varied.
"The report definitely echoes a lot of what we hear from constituents and it highlights that each district has its own unique benefits and attractions," Darrin Ledford, councilman of the top-rated District 4, said. "This report is a more accurate representation of the concerns of not only my district but many districts ... We need a strategic, long-term plan to better pave our roads."
In the survey, Districts 2 and 4 were ranked the highest with 93% of participants indicating "good" or "very good" overall quality, while District 8 brought up the rear with 80% of participants indicating the same.
Here are the summaries of findings from the report by district:
District 1: Hixson 1; Lookout Valley 1; Moccasin Bend; Mountain Creek 1 & 3; Northwoods 2
Respondents were asked which of the following programs were most important to them: bike lanes, city parks, social services, street paving or traffic flow. District 1 residents said street paving was the highest priority, with 48% indicating it is most important.
While residents rated the quality of life in Chattanooga positively, overall opinions decreased notably compared to 2018 and prior years. Positive ratings of traffic during peak hours is at 20%, a 14-percentage point decrease in satisfaction since 2015. Likewise, positive ratings of traffic during off-peak hours is down from 76% in 2015 to 64%.
District 2: Lupton City; North Chattanooga 1 & 2; Northgate 1 & 2; Riverview; Stuart Heights
When asked about the same programs, District 2 responded street paving was the highest priority, with 44% indicating it is most important. Satisfaction with the smoothness of streets (21%) is down 3 percentage points from 2018. District 2 positively rates the value of services for city taxes paid higher than any other district (49%). However, positive feelings about the direction the city is taking are down 7 percentage points from 2018 and 15-percentage points from 2015.
District 3: Dupont; Hixson 2 & 3; Murray Hills 1 & 2; Northwoods 1
Like the others, District 3 residents said street paving was the highest priority, with 62% indicating it is most important. Residents' negative perceptions of smoothness of streets is 73%, an increase in negative perceptions of 18 percentage points from 2015.
District 4: Concord 2, 4, 5; East Brainerd 1 & 2; Summit 4
Street paving was the highest priority, again, with 50% of District 4 participants indicating it is most important. Residents are frustrated with traffic flow (congestion), 63% providing negative ratings during peak hours. Thirty-nine percent reported positively on the value of services for city taxes paid, a 3-percentage point drop from 2018. Positive feelings about the overall direction of the city also declined by 3 percentage points year over year.
District 5: Bonny Oaks; Dalewood; Eastgate 1 & 2; Kingspoint 1, 2 & 3; Lake Hills; Woodmore 1 & 2
In District 5, 49% said street paving is the most important of the above listed services. Positive feelings about quality of city services for taxes paid remained at 40%, with no change from 2018. Forty-six percent of residents rated the direction the city is taking as good or very good, an increase over 2018. The residents in District 5 are displeased with the smoothness of city streets and availability of sidewalks, with negative ratings of 62% for each category.
District 6: Airport; Brainerd; Brainerd Hills; Concord 1, 3 & 6; Ooltewah 3; Summit 1; Tyner 1 & 2
Fifty-six percent of participants in District 6 listed paving as the most important program. District 6 residents continue to positively rate Chattanooga as a place to live, work, retire and raise children. However, ratings for these key quality-of-life factors decreased from 2018 to 2019, with the exception of Chattanooga as a place to retire. Residents' positive feelings related to the overall direction the city is taking decreased 4 percentage points compared to 2018, dropping to 50%.
District 7: Alton Park 1 & 2; Downtown 1 & 2; East Lake; St. Elmo 1
Street paving was still the most important service in District 7, though among just 37% of respondents. Positive feelings about Chattanooga as a place to work have improved 10 percentage points since 2015 in District 7, and residents report higher positive ratings on the direction of the city than any other district. However, the ratings decreased 4 percentage points from 2018 to 53%.
District 8: Amnicola; Avondale; Bushtown; Courthouse 1 & 2; Eastside 1 & 2
With 40% of respondents selecting paving as the most important service in the district, District 8 continued a trend of infrastructure concerns. Only 14% rated city streets positively, a 9-percentage point decrease from last year. Residents rate housing affordability worse than any other district.
District 9: East Chattanooga 1 & 2; Eastdale; Glenwood; Missionary Ridge; Ridgedale 1 & 2
Like in all other districts, District 9 participants prioritized paving, with 59% considering it to be the most important program out of the earlier list. Positive responses about Chattanooga as a place to work increased 8 percentage points compared to last year and have increased every year since 2014.
Requests for comment from District 2 Councilman Jerry Mitchell, District 8 Councilman Anthony Byrd and Mayor Andy Berke's office were not returned as of deadline.
Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at email@example.com or 423-757-6416.