CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
UPDATE: "Its a narrow tunnel but we think it is just as safe as all the others," said Blythe Bailey, City of Chattanooga Transportation Department.
Not everyone agrees with the city's transportation administrator about the Wilcox Tunnel.
And they let him know during a public meeting last month.
"The very first question that I asked when I started this job was "what are you going to do about the Wilcox Tunnel" I have been working hard on it ever since," said Bailey.
Blythe Bailey does not agree with claims by a North Brainerd Community Council representative who wrote a letter to the city saying the 83-year-old tunnel is being discriminated against under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Bailey responded saying, "it is a top priority and has been since April 2013."
"We started plan b, which means knocking on doors on the East and West side of the tunnel and finding out what is most important for improvements," said Bailey
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke applied for three federal grants, totaling $50,000,000 to build a new tunnel. Those were all denied and a back up plan was structured to patch up what bothers residents the most who travel through it.
"We're directly asking the people who use the tunnel the most and creating a plan to deliver the improvements and working on it as we speak," said Bailey.
A new white lining is being tested this week for water proofing. If that is easier to clean, makes the tunnel bright, more of it will be applied in the spring
"We initiated what we felt we could afford locally which includes lighting, fixing the water issues and the safety of the tunnel," said Bailey.
The Wilcox Tunnel will be closed between 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. every day until December 10.
During that time the water proofing test will be run plus new pavement and lights will added. PREVIOUS STORY: The Chattanooga Department of Transportation will close the Wilcox Tunnel from 8:30am until 3:30 pm each day from Monday, December 8th through Wednesday, December 10th as crews begin testing for future renovations to the heavily-used tunnel.
Early Monday afternoon, workers were installed a polyurea lining for further testing inside the tunnel.
Motorists can expect detours to be be posted.
A fourth attempt for the city to secure a federal grant to replace the tunnel was denied earlier in 2014.
About 17,000 motorists use the tunnel, which connects Chattanooga to the eastern areas.
The Wilcox Tunnel is one of four sets of tunnels in Chattanooga, used to go through ridges in the region.