From Nathan Bird, CAHSE Board Member, November 2022
[If you'd like a bit of history, read the 2011 post from CAHSE traffic liason Scot Noll here]
Traffic has long been a significant issue in St Elmo. Our neighborhood has a growing number of families, several parks, greenway connections, and a bustling commercial district, making resident comfort and pedestrian safety a top priority. The Community Association of Historic St. Elmo (CAHSE) is committed to making our neighborhood streets safe for everyone to use, whether they drive, walk, or ride.
A number of specific issues, proposed solutions, and past successes for our neighborhoods traffic issues are discussed in detail below. If you have other traffic related concerns, or if you are interested in helping coordinate traffic solutions, please email email@example.com.
St. Elmo Avenue Speeding, Noise, and Traffic Volume
The neighborhood is bisected by St. Elmo Avenue (SEA), which is classified as a state highway and as part of the National Highway System. The location and status of this route makes it one of two primary regional connectors between North Georgia and Downtown Chattanooga, and it is subject to heavy residential and industrial traffic. The Annual Average Daily Traffic Count (AADT) has held steady around 10,000 vehicles per day for the past several years. Though the posted speed limit is 25mph, speeding is frequent, and several crashes have occurred over the years.
Because St. Elmo is a state route and a part of the National Highway System, options are limited for addressing traffic issues. While the City of Chattanooga Department of Transportation (CDOT) has some influence over the design of the street and any traffic calming measures that might be put in place, the final decision rests with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). Based on previous conversations with TDOT, proposals such as speed bumps or diverting traffic to an alternate route (such as Rossville Boulevard) are not an option. The total volume of traffic is not expected to decrease.
Fortunately, there are other solutions at hand, some of which have already been implemented. Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons (RRFBs – a button activated flashing signal warning drivers to yield to pedestrians) have been installed at two key locations: the St. Elmo Park and at Mr. T’s. It has been noted that the beacon at the St. Elmo Park is not located in an ideal position and CAHSE is having conversations with the City of Chattanooga to move the RRFB and perhaps even upgrade it to a High-Intensity Activated crosswalk (HAWK beacon – a button activated signal warning to drivers to come to a complete stop for pedestrians).
CAHSE is in close contact with the City Planning Department to see if traffic calming solutions (both short and long term) can be found. Possible solutions include planters, flex-posts, curb extensions (also called bump-outs or neck downs), lane redistribution, on-street parking, and enhanced striping. Please stay tuned for more information. It is likely this process will include a neighborhood input meeting.
CAHSE is also in close contact with the Chattanooga Police Department (CPD) to ask for increased enforcement. Unfortunately increases in speeding enforcement have been sporadic. CPD’s traffic team is not adequate to service every neighborhood that is requesting increased enforcement.
Tennessee Avenue Speeding, Noise, and Traffic Volume
Tennessee Avenue is the primary alternative route to St. Elmo Avenue. Fortunately, Tennessee Avenue is fully under CDOT control. CDOT is currently reviewing a neighborhood petition for increased traffic calming. It is expected that the speed limit will be reduced from 30mph to 25 mph, and further traffic calming elements will follow. Updates from CDOT will be shared through the listserve and facebook group.
- St. Elmo has three schools within biking distance: Chattanooga Christian School, Calvin Donaldson Elementary, and Howard Middle and High School. CAHSE would like to work towards designating “safe routes to school” for as many of these schools as possible.
- The Virginia Avenue Greenway is one of St. Elmo’s greatest assets. Unfortunately, it is common for drivers to run the stop signs along the greenway, putting pedestrians and cyclists in danger. CAHSE would like to explore installing traffic calming at these intersections.
- The Tennessee Riverwalk was recently extended to St. Elmo, providing access to 26 miles of paved trails, as well as numerous spur trails. Several neighbors have expressed discomfort at the idea of crossing Broad Street as the designated location. CAHSE would like to work with CDOT and TDOT to improve this intersection to include further traffic calming or signalization.
- The South Broad Stadium plan is expected to have a significant impact on area traffic. CAHSE will be keeping up to date with all the latest plans, and will advocate for the neighborhood to ensure we do not see an outsized impact.