City of Chattanooga pulls funding for Walnut Street Bridge lighting

Image: WTVC

The city of Chattanooga says it is pulling $4 million in funding to light the Walnut Street Bridge from its Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

Richel Albright, spokeswoman for Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's office, says the city has several regulatory hoops to jump through, including from the state of Tennessee and the federal government, and that it will wait for those to happen before putting a funding request into a future budget.

"The Walnut Street Bridge lighting project that was proposed in the FY19 is a complex infrastructure project that will enhance one of our region's most important public assets," Albright says. "As such, the final design for the lighting project will be extensively vetted through input from the community. Approvals must be secured from various regulatory agencies to ensure the bridge's unique historic character is in no way compromised by our eventual design. In particular, the Tennessee State Historic Preservation Office (TN-SHPO) must review a written report with an effects assessment for for the proposed project. After this has occurred, we will be ready to submit our lighting proposal for the approval by the Tennessee Department of Transportation."

Half of the $4 million in funding was going to come from hotel/motel tax revenues that are earmarked for 21st Century Waterfront projects, with private donations picking up the rest of the tab.

Albright continues, "To that point, we feel the most prudent move we can make at this point would be to remove the lighting project from the City Council's consideration of the FY19 budget. This will allow us the time we need to continue to move this project through a complicated and time-intensive regulatory and approval process."

Albright says $1.3 million from hotel/motel taxes will remain in the budget so that basic electrical work can take place on the bridge commensurate with renovation and repair work, which must take place, regardless of the eventual lighting design.

"We know that it is possible to invest in the future of the Walnut Street Bridge while honoring and celebrating its history," Albright said. "We look forward to working with all of our partners to make that happen."

Erected in 1891, the Walnut St. Bridge is one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges. It connects downtown Chattanooga to the north shore, and is a favorite of residents and visitors alike.

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