Stretch of Union Ave. due re­vamp

Bik­ing, walk­ing, tran­sit up­grades

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - By Tom Char­lier char­lier@com­mer­cialap­peal.com 901-529-2572

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.

JIM WE­BER/THE COM­MER­CIAL AP­PEAL

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.

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