Tennessee Department of Transportation representatives visited the Lebanon Wilson Chamber of Commerce and LoJac this week as part of their Regional Projects Tour 2014.
These tours have provided TDOT staff members the opportunity to meet local partners and discuss transportation issues with the communities they serve during the past three years.
During a stop at the chamber on Tuesday, the main focus was the Lebanon Square Safety Project.
Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sue Vanatta said the Square redesign was a longtime dream of hers – but became a necessity, in her opinion, after Chamber Board Member Rick Smith was struck by a vehicle while in the crosswalk.
TDOT Project Planning Director Steve Allen said studies conducted on the safety of the Square showed 24 locations for vehicle-to-vehicle conflict and 22 locations for vehicle-to-pedestrian conflict – leading them to pitch in and fund a portion of the project using grant money.“Right now it is just your typical Square. The issue was there is just a lot of conflict,” he said, explaining that he believes transforming the Square into a roundabout design with four parking quadrants can eliminate a lot of safety issues.
“There are currently 108 parking spaces – with the new plan that is reduced to 85 parking spaces in the four quadrants right in front of the shops and businesses. This eliminates folks having to walk through traffic to the center of the Square,” Allen said. “I wasn’t the most popular person when I said that parking would be reduced, but it increases the landscape space and the safety aspect.”
Bids on the project will open Friday, he added. As of now TDOT is funding $283,000 of the redesign, a Roadscape Grant is funding $42,000 and the City of Lebanon’s portion would be $524,000.
TDOT Commissioner John Schroer said that “the vibrancy of a city’s downtown is key. It really speaks volumes without saying a whole lot.”
He compared the Lebanon Square to the square in Franklin and told of how retail space became in demand after a renovation. Schroer served as Franklin’s mayor before being appointed to serve as TDOT commissioner by Gov. Bill Haslam.
“Rents in downtown Franklin are as high as they are in Cool Springs Mall and there are no vacancies,” he said.
John Bryan, chairman of the Lebanon Chamber, explained that the majority of construction will be completed by year’s end, with cosmetic components such as landscaping to be completed by summer 2015.
“Construction isn’t going to shut down the Square. They have even talked about taking a break in the holiday season when folks are downtown doing their holiday shopping,” he said.
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead added that when construction is completed, “It is going to be a different place. A lot of people have been waiting for this.”
The TDOT group next visited LoJac’s block plant on Toshiba Drive and were treated to an inside look at how materials are made. The tour at LoJac was led by General Manager Bob Schmidt.
“Materials come in by rail and truck,” Schmidt said, explaining that after going through a mixer the block shapes are made. “It is all fully automated.”
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.