Please Help With Solutions For The Dangerous St. Elmo Avenue Speedway - And Response

  • Thursday, December 7, 2023

Dear Chattanooga City Council,

On November 2nd, our community faced yet another alarming crash on St. Elmo Avenue. This driver veered off the road, swerving through a front yard, destroying one neighbor's fence and damaging another neighbor's front porch. Fortunately, the children who often play in this fenced yard were not present, but this incident points to a significant and worsening issue that demands your immediate attention.

This was the fourth such crash to occur on St.

Elmo Avenue in just the past twelve months, underscoring a dangerous trend of high speed, reckless driving along this residential street. Reports of extreme speeding and illegal passing are common, as are reports of damaged mailboxes, trash cans, and fences. Regrettably, dangerous driving on St. Elmo Avenue has been a chronic concern for residents of this neighborhood.

After this most recent crash, we have been in touch with CPD to again request increased enforcement, and we are thankful for the addition of CPD patrols in the immediate aftermath of the crash. However, we know from experience that this is only a temporary measure. As other issues arise, policing resources will inevitably be reallocated.

In our discussions with CPD, we’ve sought a sustainable solution to this serious issue, and have repeatedly been told that the only long term solution is improved, permanent enforcement measures, including “better signage, traffic calming devices, and speed humps in strategic locations.”

St. Elmo is a growing, family neighborhood. Children play in their yards, ride their bikes to school, and walk to the park. Families walk to the ice cream shop or to church on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, many parents have anxiety about letting their children play after school or cross the street.

In its current state, St. Elmo Avenue is a dividing line in a neighborhood that wants to be united.

We acknowledge that St. Elmo Avenue is a state route, but it’s also undeniably a neighborhood street. The safety and well-being of neighborhood residents should take precedence as we ask you to help us elevate the following requests

  • CPD create a long term traffic enforcement plan that is actionable and measurable to ensure that St. Elmo is known as a community that takes speeding seriously.

  • CDOT perform a new traffic study to determine the daily traffic flows, 85th percentile speed, and 50th percentile speed.

  • CDOT study the section between 46th Street and 55th Street for possible designation as an “S-curve” under TCA § 55-8-198, and if the findings are affirmative, install an unmanned traffic enforcement camera.

  • CDOT and RPA perform a community survey and safety audit to identify key intersections which connect neighbors to community hubs.

  • This council, the mayor's office, CDOT, RPA, and CPD work with CAHSE to elevate our concerns to TDOT and help us to create an actionable and achievable short term and long term redesign of St Elmo Avenue, with the goal of bringing the 85th percentile speed to match the current posted speed limit of 25mph.

  • The City of Chattanooga study the possibility of taking responsibility for St Elmo Avenue from TDOT, as has been done with Riverfront Parkway and Main Street, and make public the results of that study.

Sincerely,

Community Association of Historic St. Elmo

* * *

I'm all for enforcing traffic and other laws in St. Elmo and elsewhere, as long as it's across board and without favortism.

The last time St. Elmo-ans wanted a high police presence in the community, police immediately came in being selective of their targets. Police were the 'darlings' of the community for those who originally demanded their presence.That is until they found themselves on the receiving end. Then those same residents who originally demanded a higher police presence didn't like it when they, their family members, friends and fellow churchgoers came to be on the receiving end.

Some of the residents even talked about having one particular cop removed from the area because, in their words, she "wouldn't do what they wanted her to do." I always thought the position of the cop is to follow and enforce the laws, and not to do what GQ citizens "want them to do."

Anyway, CPD sends out their newly on the beat rookie cop. As replacement? Then he thought he had found a smorgasboard one Sunday when he went up and down St. Elmo Ave writing tickets for cars illegally parked on the street. Surely he thought to himself, this was a chance for promotion, high commendations, days off with pay, and a host of other goodies. Instead he got into trouble when those very St Elmo-ans who originally demanded a high police presence whined and complained and got all those parking violation tickets thrown out. Case closed. Or we might say, multiple upon multiple cases closed.

Of course, that rookie cop soon became the 'exited' rookie cop. Removed from St. Elmo.
End of Story.

Brenda Washington
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