Stretch of Union Ave. due revamp
Biking, walking, transit upgrades
Memphis plans to fully revamp a half-mile stretch of Union Avenue through the Medical District — improving sidewalks, installing left-turn lanes, relocating transit shelters and adding bicycle lanes, city and state officials said Tuesday.
The city’s Union Avenue Complete Streets project, extending from Marshall east to Pauline, will be funded through a $950,000 “multimodal access” grant awarded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Memphis was one of 14 cities and towns receiving the latest round of multimodal grants totaling $10.2 million.
“Improving our facilities for walking, biking and transit is critical to the continued growth and success of our towns and cities, and these grants help make our communities across Tennessee more livable by creating more transportation options,” Gov. Bill Haslam said in a prepared statement that was part of the grant announcement.
The improvements will allow safer access to such commercial, medical and entertainment destinations as Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Regional Medical Center, Southwest Tennessee Community College and Sun Studios, according to TDOT.
Improving our facilities for walking, biking and transit is critical to the continued growth and success of our towns and cities.”
Gov. Bill Haslam
About 95 percent of the money from the Memphis grant will go toward improving pedestrian access for medical students and others walking along the busy artery leading toward Downtown, said Kyle Wagenschutz, the city’s bicycle-pedestrian coordinator. The project includes installation of new curb ramps, repairing and replacing sidewalk panels and upgrading pedestrian crossings.
In areas where sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate wheelchairs, the city will purchase right of way to widen them.
“The bike lanes aren’t the primary factor driving this project,” Wagenschutz said.
The city also will repaint the street to add two-way left-turn lanes — similar to those installed farther east on Union near Methodist University Hospital.
Wagenschutz said the turn lanes will allow for traffic to move more smoothly and safely though the Medical District. Union carried an average of nearly 37,000 vehicles a day in the district during 2013, according to TDOT traffic data.
“When you add the turn lanes, you free up some space that we’re going to fill with bike lanes,” he said.
Marshall already has bike lanes, and Dunlap, Manassas and Pauline are slated to get them. “This all makes sense from a connectivity standpoint for Union to have them,” Wagenschutz said.
Construction won’t begin for at least another year, with completion expected no earlier than two to three years from now, he said.
A cyclist rushes across six lanes of traffic on Union Avenue near Methodist Hospital on Tuesday. A $950,000 TDOT grant will fund the creation of turn lanes on Union, like this one in front of Methodist, better pedestrian access and a bike lane near the medical center.