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some text Cleveland Mayor Kevin Brooks (center) holds ceremonial copy of $1.4 million state grant presented Monday by Gov. Bill Lee (third from left) for the city's greenway.

NASHVILLE — Calling it a "game changer" for the city, Cleveland, Tennessee, Mayor Kevin Brooks says a $1.4 million grant to bring the community's greenway into downtown is "really the piece we've been waiting for."

Brooks was among officials from Tennessee towns and cities attending a Monday news conference at the state Capitol where Gov. Bill Lee and Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright announced a total of $13.7 million in Transportation Alternative Program grants to 15 local communities.

The federally funded program supports pedestrian walkways and bridges, bicycle facilities, recreational trails, landscaping, safe-routes-to-school projects and community improvements such as historic preservation.

Lee said during the ceremony the state "is committed to continuing to develop safe infrastructure across our state. These grants will help us reach our goal of being a healthier state and will enhance the lives of Tennesseans by making our communities more accessible and livable."

Cleveland will be responsible for 20% of the project's cost. Known as Phase 6, it calls for construction of a multi-model greenway along State Route 2 (Keith Street) from Willow Street to Inman Street.

The project includes a pedestrian bridge, elevated crosswalk, retaining walls and pedestrian signals.

Features will be compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and also include landscaping.

Brooks said that when the city announced its downtown revitalization plans, one of the "big questions was how will we get there, how will we connect this greenway connector from Willow Street to the downtown revitalization zone. So this is going to be a game changer."

Lee told attendees that "when a local community has a quality of life in part because of what we've done through infrastructure, then it's going to make that community more livable, it's going to make you want to be there, [businesses] want to have their stores open in the downtown area.

"That's a lot of what this is about. It's why it's very important," the governor said.

TDOT Commissioner Bright said the state has awarded a total of $386 million for the "non-traditional transportation projects" since the 1990s, allowing communities to "revitalize downtowns, highlight historic areas, provide alternative means of transportation and increase opportunities for economic development."

Brooks said because of the funding being made available for Phase 6 of the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway, the existing greenway now will be connected to the downtown corridor "for the first time ever."

In the past, some state lawmakers from Southeast Tennessee have questioned the use of fuel-supported taxes for non-highway projects such as bike paths and sidewalks. But in 2016, senators rebuffed efforts to restrict such funding.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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