The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday agreed to use more than $500,000 in red light camera money to improve the city-owned parking lot on the north side of Jackson Square and make eight Oak Ridge Turnpike intersections safer for pedestrians.
Council also approved a $175,000 contract with the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce, an amount that was down significantly from previous years but higher than what City Manager Mark Watson had originally proposed earlier this year.
The Turnpike pedestrian safety improvements are estimated at $370,000. They will provide a pedestrian walkway and crosswalk system near Oak Ridge Turnpike businesses, Watson said in a memo to Council. The project is designed and ready to be bid.
The improvements at the Jackson Square parking lot on the north side of Broadway Avenue would help connect it to the square, make it more accessible, and provide alternate parking while parts of the square’s public infrastructure are rebuilt. The parking lot is used by the Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.
The work would complement changes expected under a revitalization of the square that could start soon after Christmas using a Tennessee Department of Transportation enhancement grant worth close to $800,000, Watson said.
Oak Ridge Finance Director Janice McGinnis said the city has about $795,000 in red light camera money available now, and the two pedestrian safety projects will reduce that total to roughly $210,000. The camera contract expires in April, and it’s not clear if the city will renew it. The cameras, which issue citations for drivers who speed or run red lights, are installed at four locations on busy Oak Ridge roadways, near schools and at main intersections, but they have, at times, been controversial.
There have been other pedestrian safety projects that used the red light camera money.
The pedestrian safety projects passed 6-1 during Monday’s special meeting, with City Council member Anne Garcia Garland voting “no.”
The Chamber contract, which is for three years but subject to available funding, passed 4-2-1, with Council members Garcia Garland and Trina Baughn voting “no.” Council member Chuck Hope, a former Chamber board chair, abstained.
Council had already approved the $175,000 in funding in the budget for the current fiscal year, which started July 1, but had not considered a contract. The money approved Monday can be used for specific economic development activities but not for staff services or expenses associated with the Chamber of Commerce’s regular membership activities. It can be used for “hard costs” associated with travel, marketing, studies, data collection, prospect serving, and fees.
Watson said the new contract was part of a changed approach by his office.
“With the use of two part-time consultants for Oak Ridge (Ray Evans and Steve Jones), the city and Chamber are already coordinating responses in the region and statewide in a more reflective manner for Oak Ridge,” he said.
The city and chamber will set up a three-year Oak Ridge Economic Development Initiative, which will work on attracting new capital investment and jobs, building the city’s tax base, generating retail sales, and expanding the city and its economy. The initiative will be governed by a four-member steering committee comprised of the city manager, the president and chief executive officer of the chamber, the chair of the chamber board or the chair’s designee, and the mayor or the mayor’s designee.
The city will provide $50,000 for initial start-up costs, and more money, not to exceed another $125,000, will be provided at the discretion of the city manager.
Here is a list of the eight intersections on Oak Ridge Turnpike to be improved under the Oak Ridge Pedestrian Improvement Project :
- Tulane Avenue
- Rutgers Avenue
- Lafayette Drive/New York Avenue
- East Division Road/Tennyson Road
- Tyndale Road/Bus Terminal Road
- Tyler Road/Administration Road
- Georgia Avenue/Laboratory Road
- Florida Avenue/Fairbanks Road
Minor pavement marking and signage improvements are also included in this project at three residential intersections:
- Vermont Avenue at Pennsylvania Avenue
- Michigan Avenue at Kentucky Avenue
- Florida Avenue at Olney lane/Outer Drive