Note: This story was updated at 8:45 a.m. July 7.
Oak Ridge has received a state transportation grant of more than $900,000, and it will be used to complete sidewalks along the south side of Oak Ridge Turnpike between Illinois Avenue and Fairbanks Road, officials said Wednesday.
The $927,021.40 Multimodal Access Grant is from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
It’s one of 14 grants worth a total of about $10.3 million awarded this year, according to information from TDOT. Other cities receiving grants in the Knoxville area were Lenoir City—$899,394.30 for an SR2/Broadway Multimodal Access Project—and Gatlinburg—$396,036 for US 321 Safety Upgrades and Trolley Stop.
In Oak Ridge, the grant will be used to help build a continuous sidewalk on the south side of the Turnpike from Illinois to Fairbanks.
The current standard requires sidewalks in front of new buildings when they face the Turnpike. So, there are short stretches of new sidewalks in front of The Donut Palace and Zaxby’s restaurant, both relatively new businesses, interspersed with sections of no sidewalks in front of Martin Funeral Home and First Presbyterian Church between Lafayette Drive and Division Road.
“That fragmented sidewalk system doesn’t make people comfortable to walk,” said Kathryn Baldwin, Oak Ridge Community Development director. “It will connect those missing links.”
It’s not clear when the work will start. The project still has to be budgeted and put out for bid.
That sidewalk work will dovetail well with intersection improvements planned on Oak Ridge Turnpike at Tulane Avenue and Division Road, Baldwin said. That project for signal upgrades for pedestrians has been approved by Oak Ridge City Council and is funded by a $432,000 TDOT grant. The improvements, which require a 20 percent local match of roughly $108,000, will include marked crosswalks, ramps, and upgrades to help pedestrians.
Together, the planned improvements will help pedestrians cross from Methodist Medical Center on the north side of Oak Ridge Turnpike to the south side, where there are more medical facilities and restaurants, among other businesses. The improvements will also help connect the new Main Street Oak Ridge development at the former Oak Ridge Mall to the north side of the Turnpike and the high school.
Main Street Oak Ridge, the mixed-use redevelopment of the 58-acre mall site, is going to have lots of pedestrian connectivity, Baldwin said. Encouraging people to walk is good for the economy and people’s health, she said.
“I’m really excited,” Baldwin said. “The money’s been available, and we’ve been able to apply for it to improve our pedestrian activity and connectivity.”
The city submitted the Multimodal Access Grant application in December.
See the list of 2016 TDOT Multimodal Access Grant final awards here: 2016 TMAG Final Awards.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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