published Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Chattanooga councilman says sidewalk coming to Washington Hills neighborhood

Patrick Bennett, Jacob Brundidge and Tavarus Grayson, from left, who all use the Washington Hills Recreation Center, watch cars pass on Oakwood Drive from a ditch at the side of the road. Hammond and other Washington Hills residents have been trying to extend a sidewalk, which ends right before the ditch, to make the area safer.
Patrick Bennett, Jacob Brundidge and Tavarus Grayson, from left, who all use the Washington Hills Recreation Center, watch cars pass on Oakwood Drive from a ditch at the side of the road. Hammond and other Washington Hills residents have been trying to extend a sidewalk, which ends right before the ditch, to make the area safer.
Photo by Shawn Paik.

Washington Hills residents said they’ve been talking with city officials for five years about how dangerous it is for their children to walk to the neighborhood recreation center on Oakwood Drive.

On the side where the houses are is a debris-choked path too close to the traffic lane. Across the street is an open ditch leading to a culvert under the road. Children who want to use the center’s reading room or play on the playground have the choice of walking in traffic or wading the ditch.

Nearly 700 children and adults visited the center in July 2013. The center tallied more than 69,000 visits altogether that year, according to city officials. Many of those people are children who walk, residents said.

Parents and neighbors say they’ve complained at neighborhood roundtable meetings and with their City Council representative, but it hasn’t done any good.

“We want people to know the promises that they’ve made to us and to see that they have not followed through,” said Brenda Hammond, a Washington Hills resident who lives near the ditch and recreation center.

The residents want city officials to lengthen the culvert and lay a sidewalk over it so the children could walk across.

District 5 City Councilman Russell Gilbert said sidewalks are coming this year.

Hammond said she’s heard that promise for five years.

But this year, city transportation engineer Bert Kuyrkendall said he can confirm it.

The city designated $107,000 for the project. The sidewalk will extend along Oakwood Drive about a quarter of a mile, from the roundabout on Jersey Pike to Swan Road.

Work is scheduled to start in September or October and is expected to take less than a month.

It’s not like the request for a sidewalk wasn’t given to the previous administration, said Gilbert.

“The previous administration wasn’t willing,” he said. “We brought it to their attention every year.”

This administration is different, Gilbert said.

Within the past week, city officials put up caution lights to warn motorists coming over the hill near the center of the ditch and pedestrians walking near it.

Public Works Administrator Lee Norris said he also filed an emergency work order to get guard rails around the ditch within the next day or two.

No child has been hit — yet — Hammond said, but every day, cars leave tire marks on the road where they cross into the opposite lane to avoid a collision.

Children like 12-year-old Tavarus Grayson and 17-year-old Tim Russell have had to jump in the ditch to avoid being hit by a car.

“We need to get that done,” said Tim. “It’s not just me; other people can get hit and possibly killed. And it could cause an accident for other cars because they have to move into the other lane.”

Said Tavarus, “I don’t like going into the ditch. It might be something in there like a snake.”

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 757-6431.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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