City Set To Move Ahead On Study For Light Rail System; But Some Council Members Skeptical

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

City officials are set to move ahead in applying for a grant to study setting up a light rail system in Chattanooga, though some City Council members are skeptical.

Blythe Bailey, city transportation director, said it might cost $20 million to set up a system that would use the Missionary Ridge Tunnel to go from downtown to the Chattanooga Airport as well as the Enterprise South Industrial Park.

He said a later phase going to South Chattanooga might cost $15 million.

Several council members praised the transportation director for "thinking bold," but others questioned whether that amount of money might better be used for other infrastructure.

Councilman Yusuf Hakeem, who has sparred with Mr. Bailey recently, said such a move would be another step in "squeezing out" the largely-minority taxi industry.

Mr. Bailey said, "Chattanooga is the 'Choo Choo City,' but people come here and ask, 'Where's the trains."

He added, "We felt that Chattanooga is a place where people ought to be able to ride the train."

Mr. Bailey said the city has a wide array of unused track and rail right of ways that might be put to use to give travelers another transit option.

He indicated that CARTA might be called upon to operate the light rail system.

The city is applying for a $400,000 federal TIGAR 6 grant that would require a $300,000 city match.

Council members Chris Anderson, Carol Berz and Moses Freeman praised the project, but Councilman Larry Grohn said such light rail systems are usually in much larger cities, not one the size of Chattanooga.

Councilman Jerry Mitchell said light rail is 15 to 20 years down the road in the area growth plan. He asked, "What's the rush?"

Councilman Anderson said it is in the plan for 2020. He said, "A lot of people have been talking about this the last few days and are excited about it."

Councilwoman Berz, favoring moving forward on the idea, said, "We need to get ahead of the curve."

The grant application was approved 8-1 with Chairman Chip Henderson opposed.

The city is also applying for a second TIGER 6 federal grant - $27 million for the $52 million Wilcox Tunnel project.

Mr. Bailey said he was assured that one project would not knock out the other, but they would be considered separately.

The city applied earlier for a TIGER 6 grant for the tunnel project and got turned down. Mr. Bailey said the city was encouraged to try again.

He said now there is not such an emphasis on having a project ready to go, but applicants are given up to two years to get it ready.

 


Youth Who Violently Mugged 2 Elderly Women Sent Off To Prison

A 20-year-old who was charged with the robbery and beating of a 71-year-old woman in the Northgate Mall parking lot and an 80-year-old woman at the Mapco on Highway  58 was sent off to state prison after entering guilty pleas on Thursday. Carlos Kirksey, who was 19 at the time of the Jan. 12, 2016, attack, was given a three-year prison term on two robbery counts. He got ... (click for more)

Another Snag Stalls Approval For County Schools To Deed East Ridge High Athletic Facilities To The City Of East Ridge

Another snag has stalled the transfer by the county schools of the East Ridge High athletic complex to the city of East Ridge. School board attorney Scott Bennett said the attorney for East Ridge asked for a brief delay. He said East Ridge is concerned that, because the county schools retain certain rights regarding the property, that it might prevent the city from getting ... (click for more)

Bikers Need To Have Licenses And Insurance - And Response

I am okay with Haslam’s idea of raising the gas tax and lowering the food tax.  But, I want to see a tax of bicycles since they have their own lanes now and they also have to be maintained. How much revenue would that bring in?  I would think if we have enough bike riders to have the lanes in the first place, there must be enough to generate some money for road improvements. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Where Is Central’s Auditorium?

I am surely one of the biggest proponents of high school athletics there is, especially after half a decade of being an eye witness to the vast array of lessons that are learned every day by anyone associated with sports. That said, I have watched the Hamilton County Commission waffle on a $500,000 track at Central High School with a certain curiosity because the same high school ... (click for more)

Smooth-Operating Cameron Leads Tyner Past 'Canes

(Story will be updated) Tyner may occasionally have an off night scoring, but that Rams defense is always on. East Hamilton found that out Thursday night in a hot Tyner Academy gymnasium. It didn’t rain points. Tyner, coming off an impressive key District 6-2A win over rival Brainerd on Tuesday, stifled the Hurricanes’ attack and came away with a 49-39 victory. ... (click for more)

Cleveland Wrestlers Whip Walker Valley, 60-12

The undefeated and top-ranked Cleveland Blue Raider wrestling team just keeps rolling along, winning the close ones and also winning the ones not so close. Thursday night at Walker Valley, the Blue Raiders recorded five pins, three technical falls and two forfeits in a 60-12 victory over the Mustangs. Those pins came from Bryce Pond, Colton Landers, Austin Sweeney, Dylan Jones ... (click for more)