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Roundabout plans barely pass Chattanooga City Council

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - UPDATE: A resolution allowing the Chattanooga Department of Transportation to move forward with plans for a downtown roundabout barely passes City Council.

“It's shocking and a little disappointing,” District 8 Councilman Moses Freeman said.

The plans show the roundabout connecting 3rd and 4th Streets with Riverfront Parkway among other improvements.

The resolution passed in a five to four vote. Freeman says the opposition came as a surprise.

“We have four councilmen who voted against it and they never said a word about it in committee, never expressed any concerns or anything of that nature, so I'm shocked,” he said.

District 9 Councilman Yusuf Hakeem was one of those four. He believes the funds should be used elsewhere.

“I have a concern about continually taking city dollars and using it downtown when we have a great need in various communities,” Hakeem said.

The total project will cost about $15 million but 80-percent of those costs will be paid though federal dollars.

Freeman says the project won't only support his district but those that live in other districts as well.

“The people who are going to use that roundabout are going to be the people leaving downtown and going home to their district. They're going to get home a lot quicker and a lot easier with a lot less stress,” Freeman said.

The plans to improve this intersection have been on the books for 15 years and this approval puts leaders closer to the actual planning process.

“Not that this project shouldn't be done, but just because it's been on the books for many years, to me, is no reason to do it,” Hakeem said.

The resolution will have to make it through a second reading by the City Council. Then the Department of Transportation can move forward with finding engineers to hammer out the actual plans for the roundabout.

Actual construction won't begin for another 2.5 years.

A facelift is coming to an intersection considered one of Chattanooga's most confusing.

A $15 million proposal would add a roundabout to connect 3rd and 4th Streets with the Riverfront Parkway.

City Council members will vote Tuesday on plans to fund engineers to come in and draw up plans. If approved on the first reading, city leaders say construction would begin in about 2.5 years.

District 8 Councilman Moses Freeman says it's a project that's been needed for some time.

“It would solve a lot of confusion, a lot of problems of people going under and around and about the wrong direction sometimes by creating some traffic nightmares and would save some lives,” Freeman said.

City Transportation Director Blythe Bailey says the project has been on the books for about 15 years but isn't sure why it's taken so long to move forward with plans. Federal dollars will pick up most of the cost.

“So if you're identified under the Transportation Improvement Plan, which this project is, then you're eligible for 80-percent of the plan being funded through state and federal entities,” Bailey said.

Blythe says a roundabout costs less than a traffic light over time, in terms of maintenance, and will help bring clarity to the area through the way traffic moves.

“We think in bringing a lot of these streets together and creating clarity in terms of how traffic moves and creating better opportunities for different ways to move around in terms of how you move around and what route you choose,” Bailey added.

Freeman also believes changing the traffic flow will connect these communities as well.

“It's going to tie the university in with the communities and the communities in with the schools. Everything that's in that general area and in the neighborhoods as well,” he said.
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