• Print

    Haslam announces funds for Greenway, Blues Trail and U of M-area improvements

    By Tom Charlier - The Commercial Appeal -

    As he stepped offstage following a Memphis appearance Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam glanced at the smiling faces of local officials nearby and offered a theory as to why he was being greeted so warmly.

    "People like me a lot more when I bring checks," he said.

    The governor indeed had not come to Memphis empty-handed. He showed up at a parking lot just off the University of Memphis campus to announce nearly $1.5 million in Tennessee Department of Transportation grants to help fund three local projects.

    One grant, for just under $530,000, deals with the street along which Thursday's event was conducted. The "Walker Avenue Streetscape" project will provide improvements designed to separate pedestrian and vehicular traffic by replacing sidewalks, adding bicycle lanes, landscaping, park benches and pedestrian lighting. A planned pedestrian plaza will serve as a focal point for the area.

    The improvements between Highland and Brister are part of a broader strategy by the U of M and the surrounding University District community, to create a "vital, unique and significant place," said U of M President Shirley Raines.

    They're also part of a plan to transform the area along Highland into a gateway, or front door, into the university, said spokesman Curt Guenther.

    Another of the grants announced by Haslam, for $666,523, will cover about half the costs of a planned fourth phase for the city of Memphis' Wolf River Greenway, a paved, multiuse trail that eventually will stretch 22 miles from the Mississippi River to Germantown.

    The 1.1-mile segment targeted by the grant will extend from McLean westward to Hollywood, much of it along a levee. Mike Flowers, administrator of planning and development with the Memphis Division of Park and Neighborhood Services, said the construction contract for the segment should be awarded this fall, with completion expected in late 2013.

    The other grant will provide $285,944 for the "Highway 61 Blues Trail" project, funding improvements along an 11-mile stretch of U.S. 61 from the Mississippi line to Crump Boulevard.

    The transportation-enhancement grants were made through a federally funded program administered by TDOT. Haslam noted that while many people like to "beat up on Congress," this program seems to work.

    "Every now and then, they get it right," he said.