Grant to provide ‘connectivity’ on section of Chapman Highway

Betsy PickleOur Town Leaders

A city press release about a new multi-use path on Chapman Highway caused some confusion among South Knoxvillians.

In short:

  • No, Chapman Highway is not being “fixed” – yet.
  • No, the city is not installing more bike lanes on Chapman Highway.

City Engineer Director Jim Hagerman, a South Knoxvillian and cyclist himself, visited the South Knoxville Alliance this week to explain the project announced in the February press release.

The city applied for a multimodal grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to create a multi-use path on Chapman Highway between Woodlawn Pike (at the South Knoxville Branch Library on the east side and Chapman Square exit on the west) and Stone Road, on the west side of the highway.

“It’s not bike lanes,” Hagerman said at the meeting in the music classroom at Dogwood Elementary School. “It’s a … wide sidewalk sort of thing, separated from the road, with curb and gutter probably. … It’s really very early in the design process, so there’s a lot yet to be decided.”

Some pieces of the project will add traditional sidewalks. But the “path” itself will be asphalt.

“Most sidewalks are concrete. Most greenways are asphalt,” said Hagerman. In other words, this probably would be called a greenway if it weren’t right next to busy Chapman Highway. Asphalt costs much less than concrete.

The press-release confusion might be traced to this: The city completed a Bike Facilities Plan in 2015, and out of 120 projects identified, a Woodlawn-to-Stone Road segment was ranked 39th in importance. However, when TDOT announced this competitive grant, the project flew to the top of the list – in an altered form.

The criteria “steered us back to this particular project because it has to be primarily along a state route,” Hagerman said. “Most of our other projects weren’t primarily along a state route, or they were too big a project to be affordable for us with the limited size of this particular grant.”

The TDOT multimodal grant funds $950,000 of a project, with the local jurisdiction funding 5 percent, or $50,000. The project needed to provide safe and accessible traveling options for pedestrians, cyclists and public-transportation users and last-mile connectivity for transit users. It also had to increase connectivity among a mix of land uses, including neighborhoods, places of employment and retail entities.

The city is going to contribute about $850,000 more from its Bicycle Infrastructure and Pedestrian Infrastructure programs. That helped increase the odds of winning the grant, but it also “pretty much cleans out our bike program funding,” said Hagerman.

The grant requires the project to be constructible within two years. Hagerman said there’s an environmental process to go through, then the design, then right-of-way acquisition, so he expects construction to start in about a year and a half.

As for the larger Chapman Highway Implementation Project, Hagerman said that they will coordinate with TDOT to make sure nothing in this project conflicts. There will be a public meeting on the Chapman Highway project in April.

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