published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Chattanooga City Council debates Wilcox Tunnel repairs


by Cliff Hightower
  • photo
    File Photo by Dan Henry. Geotechnical engineers Scott LaSala and Bo Gao use a ground penetrating radar to survey the northeast wall of Chattanooga's Wilcox tunnel in this file photo.

Mayor Ron Littlefield told Chattanooga council members today they needed to rethink temporarily fixing the Wilcox Tunnel and instead use the money to expand it.

"I don't know how many times we've put a Band-Aid on this problem," he said. "No Band-Aid holds."

The City Council could possibly vote on a measure next week that would pay more than $455,000 to temporarily fix the tunnel. Littlefield said he would much rather the city pay $700,000 for a long-term feasibility study to make the tunnel larger.

Councilman Russell Gilbert, who represents the area, said he would like to hold a meeting with the mayor and the residents surrounding the tunnel.

He said the residents would have a meeting in March and they need an explanation on how the tunnel can be fixed.

"They have been waiting for a long period of time for something to happen," he said.

WHAT'S NEXT

The City Council will meet 7 p.m. Tuesday night and possibly vote on a temporary fix for the Wilcox Tunnel.

Councilwoman Sally Robinson said she wondered why the item was on the agenda in the first place. She said the city should be looking at a long-range plan, instead of a short fix.

"It concerns me it even came up," she said.

Audio clip

2/15/11 City Council Meeting

Gilbert said studies have been conducted and promises made to expand the tunnel. He said something is needed now.

"This has been going on for 30 years," he said. "We've been doing study after study and nothing has been done."

Contact Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CliffHightower.

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