Ridiculous Changes On Frazier Avenue Traffic Patterns - And Response (7)

  • Monday, April 22, 2024

Well, our local politicians have done it again.

First they had to ruin MLK and McCallie Avenues. Then they ruined Dodds Avenue. They turned both of them into one-lane traffic each way with center turn lanes and bike lanes. And they ruined them.

Now they’re ruining Frazier Avenue.

Why is it that politicians believe they have to be seen doing something? I wish they’d just leave us all alone. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Ronald Reagan’s nine scariest words. And nowhere is that more true than in the current “leadership” of Chattanooga. And by the way, President Reagan was not being complimentary of politicians.

I’m speaking in particular of the lane changes they are implementing on Frazier Avenue. The politicians created this problem by approving the building of perhaps a dozen multi-use buildings along Manufacturers, Cherokee and Frazier Avenue on the NorthShore. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new residents moved into those buildings. And with each of them (generally) came one or two cars. And more traffic on already congested streets.

Then came that fateful day last November when a Florida woman and her child were killed by a rage-and-alcohol-induced driver who got into a rage induced driving incident with another driver. Fateful, yes. Are all lives precious? Yes. Do I wish it had never happened? Of course.

But we’re talking one incident in how many years?

I’ve worked on Frazier Avenue for almost seven years. In all those years I’ve seen tens of thousands of vehicles pass my office every month – for seven years – with not one – not one – other deadly accident. The city of Chattanooga even said that pedestrian-involved accidents – where the pedestrian was in the right and not crossing traffic without the right-of-way– were virtually non-existent on Frazier Avenue prior to that November day. I believe the report I read stated there was only one driver-pedestrian involved incident in history on Frazier Avenue, prior to last November, where the driver was at fault. In all other cases, the pedestrian was at fault

So why on earth do politicians believe that they have to gridlock traffic on yet another street because of one alcohol and rage induced incident? Two lanes each direction barely carry the traffic now. Moving to one lane – with a center turn lane – will only further exacerbate an already clogged area and create more road rage.

I drove Frazier when they had their cones set up testing traffic patterns. It was a nightmare. I left my building after work (corner of Frazier and Tremont) heading west on Frazier towards TN-27. It took me, on average, six traffic lights to simply get to Market Street. Six light cycles to go barely half a mile. Then another light at Manufacturers. Then maneuvering through the construction-induced traffic in front of the new buildings on Manufacturers. By the time I’d gotten to TN-27, it's fair to say I’d lost my cherub-like demeanor.

I challenge any politician – and anyone in support of this change – to spend a little time on Dodds Avenue during school rush hour at McCallie School. I challenge them to drive MLK/Bailey and/or McCallie Avenue from the ridge cut to downtown during any rush hour time and tell me about their mental health afterwards.

I've driven those roads hundreds and hundreds of times since the change, and I've counted on one hand the number of cyclists I've seen enjoying the "bike lanes."

Pedestrian traffic on Frazier Avenue is just fine the way it is. Cyclists have the ability to use the right-most lane each way. Pedestrians are safe on the sidewalk (and don't start in on me with that November incident - that was as much of an outlier as one could find).

We’re letting one fateful incident color everything that is good and healthy about Frazier Avenue. And we’re letting politicians ruin our lives again (or, better yet, still).

It’s not too late. Keep it like it is. Keep the speed limit at 25. Set up cameras and more patrols.

But leave our four lanes alone.

James Barber

* * *

Mr. Barber,

You are aware that, in this instance, "our local politicians" are doing what they're elected to do, right?

It was not politicians who demanded change on Frazier Avenue. It was the public who demanded change and our local politicians listened to their constituents.

There was even public input and a public vote on the new design.

Robbie Nicholson

* * *

In a practical response to the "Ridiculous Changes on Frazier Avenue" piece in the opinion section, let me help paint several scenarios. And, yes, I too work on the North Shore and have watched the traffic and driven in the traffic for years.

Morning rush hour. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cars exiting TN-27, merging in from Cherokee and Manufacturers, heading east to Frazier Avenue, heading to work on the North Shore or to GPS or to the Bright School, or headed to Veteran's Bridge to cross the river and head to Erlanger or CSAS or simply downtown. Two lanes on Cherokee and one lane from Manufacturers forced, within one city block (Market Street intersection) into one lane all the way to Veteran's Bridge.

Then consider the opposite scenario. I pity the person trying to drive from Veteran's Bridge area to Market Street, heading west, from 3 p.m. on. All those drivers returning from the Bright School or GPS, or from across the river, or ending their work day, all of them headed to TN-27 area on either Manufacturers or Cherokee/Signal Mountain Road, and all forced into one lane for a significant portion of that drive. That traffic is already brutal. A forced single lane merger near Veteran's Bridge heading west will create untold backups across the bridge and up Barton Avenue/Hixson Pike back towards GPS and Bright School.

Oh. That's right. We're creating a left turn lane. I forgot. If one is headed from Veteran's Bridge area heading west to Market Street, with the exception of the left turn on Tremont that takes one into Coolidge park, there are no other left turns until you get to Market Street. A lot of good that left turn lane does you. Yes, coming east from Market Street to Veteran's Bridge, there are several left turns - with most of those taking one into the residential areas (with a few scattered businesses) of North Shore.

We already have a seriously underutilized parking garage behind the Shell station, along with ample parking in Coolidge. Those who wish to drive to North Shore to shop can easily park in any of those lots.

And since when are serious lane reduction changes made for the limited pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Oh yeah. That's right. That's the pattern of this city, to manipulate traffic on MLK, and McCallie, and Dodds, for the benefit of cyclists. And I'm not hating on cyclists, but they are in the vast minority of traffic on those roads.

I agree with the author's assessment of the horrendous traffic on Dodds Avenue from McCallie Avenue to E. 23rd Street during morning and afternoon rush hour/school opening and closing, and also during Friday night football games at McCallie. Now you're looking to create another logjam that will impact two more private schools. One might end up believing that the authors of this study, and the thick-headed politicians making these decisions, had it in for several of Chattanooga's finest private schools. Imagine the uproar if the city fathers decided to do this on Signal Mountain Boulevard in front of, and impacting, the Baylor School.

And finally, to the author's point of the November incident being an outlier. Perhaps the decision makers at City Hall were absent from school the day they taught statistics. An outlier is simply a number, or a result, that is so far from the norm that it must be removed from the study for statistical purposes. That's what the November incident was. Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or millions of cars that have driven that stretch of Frazier Avenue over the past 20 years, and we have one fatal incident. One. That is a statistical outlier. The author is correct that all lives are precious, and this was a tragic case of alcohol-induced road rage. But it's one incident over years and years of traffic on Frazier. Making a staggering decision based on one outlier is not good policy; it's a politician's knee-jerk reaction to one event. One would think that a Chattanooga mayor who used to (or perhaps sill does - who knows) make a very good living selling cars would be a little more sympathetic to those of us who have to drive these roads every day.

It's not to late to change. I wish every person reading this who has to drive these roads, and every parent of every child at GPS and Bright, and every administrator at GPS and Bright, and every business owner or employee on Frazier who reads this, would bombard City Hall with written and phoned-in protests. If we don't do it now, the results will speak for themselves and we'll be doing it later.

This is a horrendous decision, and it must be reversed.

Jack Baker

* * *

I understand that a reduction in lanes seems counterintuitive when your primary concern is moving as quickly as possible by car. However, even for drivers, a 4 lane to 3 lane road diet can be immensely beneficial.

The Federal Highway Administration has studied such road diets extensively and found that they increase safety for both drivers and pedestrians. Throughout their studies the FHWA has found that road diets reduce crash rates by 19 to 47 percent. Such reductions in crash rates can help reduce insurance premiums, repairs costs, and most importantly, reduce injuries and save lives.

But what about congestion? Well, the FHWA has studied this as well and found that road diets have little to no significant impact on congestion in most cases. Congestion may still exist (as in the rush hour scenarios Mr. Barber describes on MLK and McCallie), but it is not significantly worsened.

Speaking only from my own personal experience, I can say that the road diets the city has completed on MLK, McCallie, and elsewhere have improved my experience significantly as a cyclist and as a driver. My experience as a cyclist requires little explanation, I simply enjoy having the extra separation between larger vehicles and I am happy not to block traffic by riding in a vehicle lane. My experience as a driver on these newly narrowed streets is that they are simply much easier to navigate. I am no longer worried about being cut off by another driver jockeying for position, having to stop suddenly for left turning traffic in the travel lane, or trying to predict which lane I need to be in. Even if my drive is slightly longer, it's far more comfortable.

On the whole, road diets are a well tested tool in the traffic engineering toolbox, and taxpayers will see long term savings from these decisions.

Nathan Bird

* * *

I lived on the intown end of Barton Avenue in the 70's and do not remember any mass slaughter of pedestrians on Frazier Avenue.

Actually, I strongly suspect that the city fathers truly desire to reduce all surface streets in the city to three lanes. After that, they may try to reduce the speed limits to 25 mph everywhere.

Look at all the streets that have already been "calmed."

If you think that is fun, wait until they start on Brainerd Road, Hixson Pike and Amnicola Highway.

Michelle L. Rogers

* * *

Regarding the traffic flow changes on Frazier: I'm a long-time road cyclist and I am opposed to the separated bike lane configuration that has been chosen there and on some other downtown streets.

In addition to bicycling, I also worked downtown for over 30 years, and I know how hard it is to get around down there in a car. And those bike lanes don't really add to cycling safety; rather, they may give a false sense of security and also may make some bureaucrat (who likely doesn't ride a bicycle very much) feel good.

A much better solution than eliminating lanes might be to put in raised crosswalks (not speed bumps) every block; that will slow the speeders but still let traffic flow at an acceptable pace.

Rob Clapp

* * *

As a resident of Brainerd, who uses Brainerd Road daily, I would greatly appreciate changes to the road to reduce vehicle speed and increase safety walking along it. My neighborhood is not a place to be sped through, it is a place to cared for.

My neighbors and I have made numerous requests to consider changes to the street, and would appreciate more thoughtful focus from the state. When the street is calmer, businesses will be more successful and more people will consider moving here.

Chattanooga's most desirable neighborhoods are walkable and safe. We should prioritize this approach everywhere.

David Johnson

* * *

Let me come forward with a few facts regarding this plan to reduce Frazier Avenue to one lane in each direction. I have operated my business on Frazier Avenue for the past nine years and live less than two miles away. When this plan first became known to me I contacted Ryan Ewalt with the city.  He advised that city planners have been wanting to make this lane change for 10 years. It's my opinion they needed a catalyst to initiate the change and the tragic accident this past November provided them exactly that. 

After exchanging several emails with Mr. Ewalt, who was very respectful but I realized I was at a dead end, I next contacted our representative, Jenny Hill, and exchanged a few emails with her. She advised that the business owners on Frazier Avenue had been surveyed and most supported the change. I went door to door with eight other surrounding businesses and asked them if they had been contacted - the results were unanimous, none had been contacted. If you only survey those who support your ideas, the results are skewed and then it becomes a tool to push your agenda.

In my nine years here on Frazier I have never seen emergency equipment dispatched because of a traffic incident. Yes, there have been a few fender benders here and there but nothing else. 

This is an expensive knee jerk reaction to a relatively non-existent situation. Frazier Avenue is not a dangerous roadway. I feel much safer walking to the post office than I do walking by Coolidge Park after the sun goes down. I have not seen any factual data to support that Frazier is dangerous. One drunk, road raging idiot may end up impacting everyone who lives and works on the North Shore for a long time. All the proposed preventative measures discussed would not have prevented the November tragedy.

If you just want to feel good about something, cross the river to the intersection of 4th Street and Georgia Avenue - that is a dangerous traffic area. Where is the protest? I'm sure there is plenty of data to support this. 

Is the public aware that outside funding has been offered to construct elevated crosswalks similar to the ones at the airport on Frazier? These alone would slow traffic on the roadway. While I'm on the subject of slowing traffic, motorcycle units from the police department asked if they could use our parking lot to set up a speed enforcement area. I gladly cooperated with the request. After three days I walked over and spoke with one of the officers. He said the fastest car they clocked coming off the Veterans Bridge was 37 MPH. They issued one citation in that time.   

 Some things - once you do them, you can't undo them.

Patrick Holmes

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