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Staff photo by Tim Barber / The Chattanooga Department of Transportation or CDOT has some ideas to help business with social distancing. This photo shows a previous sidewalk effort by the agency.

The Chattanooga Department of Transportation will let businesses use certain public spaces to increase capacity safely during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilot program, Streets as Places: Reimagining the Outdoors — or SPROUTS — is a retail and restaurant recovery pilot program that will help businesses, restaurants, services and community agencies support social distancing inside and outside their buildings, according to a press release.

"We are talking about things like sidewalks and public spaces ... where traditionally we would not allow the restaurants to have more space," Mayor Andy Berke told the media Friday. "That way they can try and distance their customers more."

Berke also said that the program will help create more foot traffic to boost business after weeks of shutdowns to curtail the virus took a toll on many business' revenue.

"[We're] trying to ensure that there are more pedestrian-friendly areas around these businesses to generate more traffic and hopefully help them as they reopen," Berke said. "[We're] making sure that we are taking advantage of this moment when there's a little less traffic on our public spaces and we know that businesses need this to try and be safe."

According to Berke, businesses asked CDOT and the mayor's office for leeway in public space usage in recent weeks as they have limited indoor capacity under Gov. Bill Lee's Tennessee Pledge, which encourages businesses to operate at 50% capacity and maintain physical distance between customers.

The city and CDOT are offering three programs: temporary loading zones, curb lane pedestrian zones and outdoor expansion zones.

 

Temporary loading zones

CDOT and the Chattanooga Parking Authority have worked together to convert on-street parking spaces near restaurants to temporary loading zones to facilitate curbside meal pickup and delivery. Even after restaurants have been allowed to reopen by Lee's Executive Order 29, the practice of no-contact curbside restaurant or retail pickup continues to be a safe and responsible way for citizens to interact with retail and restaurant businesses, officials say.

 

Curb lane pedestrian zones

These areas allow for businesses to utilize the street parking in front of and near their shop for additional pedestrian traffic while patrons may be waiting outside businesses in line. This allows for safe social distancing practices and helps continue the flow of foot traffic.

 

Outdoor expansion zones

Businesses, such as retailers and restaurants, which by Lee's Executive Order 29 are to limit their indoor capacity to 50%, are able to temporarily expand their business footprint onto the public right-of-way.

Gathering in groups will not be permitted in outside areas.

Applicants to the programs will be required to adhere to federal health guidelines and advice from public health experts by planning to manage social distancing for customers and employees, both inside and outside their businesses; staff should wear face coverings; maintain proper hand hygiene; keep surfaces and objects clean and find ways to limit contact between people.

There are no application fees associated with the SPROUTS pilot program. Once an application is approved, the applicant will be sent an approval letter and a traffic control plan. The traffic plan will detail any signs, barricades or other traffic control devices required to safely operate in the public right-of-way. It is the applicant's responsibility to obtain, install and remove the various traffic control devices required by the plan.

For more information about the program, resources for your businesses, and how to apply visit cha.city/sprouts.

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