Held at the Cleveland Bradley County Library, the forum was conducted by Tennessee Area Project Manager Michelle Kendall and Supervising Planner Doug Delaney, consultants with Parsons Brinckerhoff of Nashville. They will compile the public input and return in early December for another public forum to gain a more focused plan.
Comments ranged from not looking too far out into the future because the world is changing too fast; to preserving the characteristics that make people want to move to Cleveland; to purchasing land for infrastructure now and in the near future before the price increases.
A former Boston resident said the land should be purchased now even if the infrastructure is not going to be built 20 years later “because when crunch time comes and you realize you’ve got to build it, if you don’t have the land, you are going to have to demolish stuff and it’s going to be very, very disruptive.”
Delaney said the goal of the long range plan is to improve transportation, decide what projects and programs should be implemented, get them implemented and then start all over again because transportation needs are constantly changing.
“There is a lot of change that is anticipated and expected to happen in this area and we need to be ready for that change, thinking about that change and looking forward on how to address that change in the future,” he said.
Right now, Delaney said Cleveland and Bradley County are very rural in nature for the most part with some pockets of industrial and commercial areas concentrated around the downtown and major routes.
There was some objection to the “very rural” label in light of the fact that Cleveland is a Metropolitan Statistical Area and the county population is 100,000.
Delaney asked how transportation will be affected as population grows and land use planning is updated because of the impact of Wacker Chemie, Whirlpool, Volkswagen and ancillary industries.
“We need to be looking at setting goals and objectives so growth happens appropriately (and that) it happens in the right areas so the transportation system handles anticipated growth,” he said.
James Abercrombie, 49, is a former truck driver who lives on Stephens Road and commented on transportation issues from a personal perspective. He has cascading illnesses that began with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He began retaining water with the onset of lymphederma, which contributed to elephantitis. Though he can walk, his range is limited.
He said the transportation system cannot handle the needs of the current population and “what we have needs to be brought up to code first.”
Abercrombie said he doesn’t like sitting at home and is often seen riding his motorized chair along Stuart Road to Farmers Corner and across North Lee Highway to Walmart or Bradley Square Mall.
His biggest problem is the lack of crosswalks, sidewalks and curb cuts. He crosses North Lee Highway through a cut in the median south of Stuart Road. Sometimes, he catches a bus at Walmart or the mall, but it only takes him an hour to ride the chair from Stephens Road to visit his father on Spring Place Road. On the return back to his apartment, Abercrombie stops at Bargain Barn, Save-a-Lot, the library and Walmart. He then drives east on Stuart Road toward home.
Another group that in some ways faces the same challenges as Abercrombie are bicyclists. Doug Coulter, owner of Scott’s Bikes, said Europeans are used to having the ability to ride to grocery stores and other common daily chores on a bicycle.
“I think as we get companies coming into this area, we need to make sure we make it more appealing to them by giving them that opportunity,” he said. “I believe it is healthier doing it that way.”
He stressed the importance of having bike lanes and bringing awareness to bicycles to make it safer for riders.
“Right now, if you are not in a car, you’re not safe,” he said. “It would be nice to have the ability to go from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and do it safely.”
He said drivers and cyclist alike need to show respect for each other and obey traffic laws. The greenway system is nice, but walkers and cyclists don’t always mix well.
“I think it is a cool start for easy riding, but I think it needs to not just be for exercise, but it also needs to be aimed toward transportation,” Coulter offered.
Cyclist Stan Pegram said people in Chattanooga who use the Riverwalk have become educated as to what to do with pedestrians and bicycles. There are speed limit signs for bikes in picnic areas. Signs instruct bicyclists to pass only on the left and pedestrians to stay to the right.
“They’ve done a good job of education there and you don’t have the problems we have on the greenway here,” he said. “But it took a two or three-year education process to develop.”
The Long-Range Transportation Plan is a 20-plus years multimodal strategy and capital improvement program developed to guide the effective investment of public funds in transportation facilities to help manage congestion, increase regional mobility options, and conform to national air quality standards.
The LRTP is updated every four years. The current 2030 LRTP was adopted in 2006. The 2035 LRTP is expected to be adopted in May 2011.