published Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Chattanooga's Manufacturers Road plans raise concern

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    Karen Hundt, director of Chattanooga’s Design Center

Planned improvements to Manufacturers Road have been welcomed as a step in cleaning up the last vestiges of downtown's dirty past, but residents who drive the road daily are concerned beautification efforts may have unintended consequences.

Artist renderings of the plans show two lanes of the road being replaced by sidewalks and bike lanes. Bob Davies, who lives on Stringer's Ridge, says that could cause headaches -- and dangerous driving conditions. Since the Manning Street ramp to U.S. Highway 27 is closed, Davies and many of his neighbors rely on Manufacturers Road to get downtown.

"Manufacturers Road services many industries, and many of those vehicles are 18-wheelers that are loaded. To make that road a two-lane would increase congestion, and I believe would make for a more hazardous situation for motor vehicles," Davies said in an email Friday.

Planners also need to remember the road's namesake, he said. And changes to the road shouldn't make transportation harder on industry.

"A great deal could be done to make it a lot safer, especially for those of us that try to use it every day commuting to downtown. But don't let easy access to bikers and beautification experts take away jobs. Try to figure out how to make it more functional -- but don't hurt our bread and butter," he said.

Karen Hundt, director of the community design group in the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency, said she is keenly aware of the businesses' and residents' concerns, and the drawings were "very preliminary."

But they are based on traffic studies, she said.

"We did some preliminary traffic numbers and based the plans on those," Hundt said.

However, since then, Davies is not the only one to voice concerns, she said.

"We've had numerous conversations with property owners and manufacturers on the road, and they did have some concerns about narrowing the road down to two lanes. We're still very preliminary."

Hundt said solid plans won't be made until after the Tennessee Department of Transportation finishes work on U.S. 27.

"That may have some impact one way or the other on traffic. ... So we are going to look at that before making final plans," Hundt said.

She also said planners would talk with businesses before plans are finalized, and she noted the two-laning would only involve the part of the road west of the interstate.

Blythe Bailey, administrator of Chattanooga's transportation department, said Friday the city has applied for federal grants based on the preliminary plans. But those plans aren't set in stone.

Final designs for the roadway will not be completed until grants come through and state projects are complete, he said.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon or at 423-757-6481.

about Louie Brogdon...

Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...

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