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Public meeting about James Blvd. work set for Aug. 29

Some say they can’t imagine James Boulevard without them. But at a possible cost of half a million dollars, the fact remains that replacing the historic rails on James Boulevard after construction is a costly option for the town of Signal Mountain.

In efforts to receive public input on how to resurface the road — including whether or not to replace the rails after construction, how wide the resurfaced street should be as well as what it should be made out of — the town is hosting a public meeting Thursday, Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall.

Public Works Director Loretta Hopper will be leading the public meeting, along with Greg Wilson of CTI Engineering and Town Manager Chris Dorsey. Hopper encourages residents to come to the meeting at 5:30 p.m. to view enlarged maps of the street that showcase the different options.

“There will be comment cards for people to fill out and give their ideas,” she said, adding that the meeting will include a PowerPoint presentation on different options for resurfacing as well as a question-and-answer time.

The least expensive option for resurfacing could include a narrower road made of asphalt, while the most expensive option would likely be to replace the rails in a road made of concrete, said Hopper.

Whatever is decided, the project will be 80 percent funded through a transportation improvement grant through the Tennessee Department of Transportation, with the town responsible for the rest of the cost.

Though there are many things still to decide about the project, what remains on many residents’ minds are the historic rails.

“We are all very attached to [the rails], except they are not practical or affordable to replace,” said Vice Mayor Susan Robertson, a resident of James Boulevard.

She said she has gotten at least a dozen phone calls as well as letters from Signal Mountain residents since the resurfacing project was discussed by the Council in July. Some plead for the rails to stay in place, even saying they moved to James Boulevard because of its historical characteristics.

There are also residents who suggest memorializing the rails in some other way, said Robertson. Suggestions she has received include commissioning a sculpture out of the rails or placing a section of the rails on a plot of land in front of Alexian Village, what used to be the Signal Mountain Inn and the main reason for the trolley tracks, along with a memorial or plaque telling the story of the rails.

“It ought to be a large and interesting meeting,” said Robertson. “We [the Council] want to get a feel for what the citizens want; this is our opportunity to get a read.”