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.

 


Sign Up To Get The Latest News, Opinions From Chattanoogan.com In Real Time; Win Set Of Chattanooga Photo Books

Sign up for our Facebook and Twitter feeds and you will get the  local news in "real time." You will also be entered for a chance to win the complete set of the Chattanooga Photo Books published by Chattanoogan.com. We will give away three sets of The Remarkable Stokes Collection, Railroads In and Around Chattanooga and Paul Hiener's Historic Chattanooga to our new Facebook ... (click for more)

Police Blotter: Man Breaking Into Car Had Just Locked His Keys Inside; Panhandler Had Full Tank Of Gas

Police were notified that someone was trying to break into a vehicle's window at Mid Nite Oil on Lee Highway. Upon arrival, police learned that it was a misunderstanding. Gary M. Gengan reported that he had locked his vehicle with the keys inside and requested police for assistance. He did report that he was trying to break the window because he did not have much choice. The vehicle ... (click for more)

Exempt Volunteer Fire Departments From Procurement Policies - And Response

The Hamilton County Commission just grouped a bunch of departments together in an attempt to reign in the CVB. I haven't spoken to any commissioners, but I truly believe it was unknowingly. By mandating that all non profits that receive 25 percent of their revenue follow county procurement policies, they might as well have padlocked all local volunteer fire departments. We expect ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Luther’s B-17 Showed Up

I am a huge sap for our veterans and just the other days a reader shared the ultimate story about a guy who returned to his sweetheart at the end of World War II. The little town of Miller. Missouri, is located in the southwest corner of the state and the biggest thing to ever happen in Lawrence County is when a native son, James Lawrence, hollered “Don’t Give Up The Ship” in the ... (click for more)

Inclement Weather Forces Cancellation Of Thursday Night's Lookouts Game

Not only was Tropical Storm Cindy responsible for the cancellation of Tuesday's Southern League All-Star Game, but now the storm has also resulted in the cancellation of Thursday night's game at AT&T Field with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The First Half North Division Champion Lookouts announced that Thursday's (6/22) game has been postponed due ... (click for more)

Cleveland High School Selects Joey Knox As Head Wrestling Coach

Cleveland High School has selected Joey Knox as the next head coach for the Blue Raider Wrestling program.  Coach Knox has been with the wrestling program as an assistant since 2013.  During his assistant coaching tenure, the team has secured six Team State Championships, including five individual State Champions and 20 State Medalists.    Cleveland High ... (click for more)