Wednesday, October 31, 2012
No one knows exactly what Chattanooga’s transportation systems will look like in 2040, but community members have already voiced their opinions and preferences, and all are encouraged to continue doing so as a long-term plan materializes for the metropolitan area.
As Hamilton, Dade, Walker and Catoosa counties are poised to receive billions in federally funded projects between now and 2040, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency was required by law to staff a policy board called the Chattanooga-Hamilton County/North Georgia Transportation Planning Organization (TPO.) That body is required by law to develop a comprehensive plan and engage in a planning process which will result in a final document detailing priority transportation improvements.
“It’s the TPO’s job to approve federally funded projects within the area and create a 20-year plan that will be updated every four years,” explained TPO representative Peter Haliburton. “Transportation needs to be planned to accommodate growth and air quality standards so that growth continues without gridlocking certain parts of the community.”
In order to complete that document, the organization is mandated to spend time in the community seeking out what residents would like to see in the future. So far, four community input sessions have been held throughout Hamilton County and North Georgia and additional sessions have been planned.
“Community participation in this process is important from the perspective that transportation funding is the largest piece of federal funding that comes to the region with the exception of things like schools,” said Haliburton. “This process is setting the direction of the community and transportation is a key driver of expansion, so by participating in these discussions, folks get to have a say in that.”
According to Karen Rennich, deputy director of the RPA, the East Brainerd Road widening project that’s currently under way, a project to improve Bonny Oaks Drive and the possibility of widening Ooltewah-Ringgold Road have surfaced as some of the major concerns in the East Hamilton area.
“The Ooltewah-Ringgold Road project is interesting, because it’s a bi-state project,” she said. “This is one that’s generated a lot of discussion. It’s on people’s radar, but people maybe have different thoughts on that, so it’s one that will probably generate more discussion.”
Collegedale city planner Kelly Martin said some of the biggest opportunities for Collegedale include expanding the greenway, improving traffic flow through the Four Corners area where Apison Pike and Ooltewah-Ringgold Road intersect, and providing more infrastructure to support activity between the greenway and Enterprise South.
“As the Apison Pike roadway expands we’re also looking at how to improve access to other parts of the city and the county,” he said.
Additional community meetings are tentatively scheduled for January and then quarterly once the new year begins. Residents are also encouraged to complete a transportation survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/2040RTP or call the RPA at 757-5216 for more information.