Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 30, 2018

City reopens block of MLK Boulevard following 30 days of construction

Construction crews remove one of the road signs blocking access to MLK Boulevard after completing their work on the renovated thoroughfare. - Photograph by David Laprad

Drivers who use Martin Luther King Boulevard to navigate downtown Chattanooga can add back the block between Market Street and Georgia Avenue to their daily commutes. After 130 days of work, construction crews on the project recently removed the “Road Closed” signs, opening the block to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

The revamped block of MLK Boulevard consists of hexagon-shaped pavers, a tree-lined median and other visual representations put in place to guide people from Miller Plaza to Miller Park. The design maintains the same number of through lanes and left turn lanes but shortens the pedestrian crossing distance at Market Street.

Mayor Andy Berke was on hand to celebrate the occasion. After joking that the City of Chattanooga is so proud of the revamped thoroughfare that it will be allowing only compact cars with one passenger to cross it, he thanked the many people who worked on the project and congratulated them on a job well done.

“MLK Boulevard is one of the most important corridors of our city. Forty-thousand people travel by foot or car along MLK every day,” he said. “This is the front door of our city. We wanted something worthy of that role.”

The City closed the block on Nov. 13. The renovations are part of the improvements it’s making to the Miller Park district.

Department of Transportation Administrator Blythe Bailey said the City wanted to create a continuous public space from Miller Plaza to Miller Park but still accommodate cars.

After the crews removed the signs, the first car to enter the updated strip braked to avoid hitting a fast-moving pedestrian at the Market Street crossing. Earlier, Bailey admonished drivers to be careful.

“This passage is designed for slow speeds,” he said. “We expect there will be a lot of pedestrians, both during special events and everyday use.”

Department of Public Works Administrator Justin Holland said construction on Miller Park is on schedule and should open in mid-July.

The new MLK Boulevard expands space for events such as Nightfall while maintaining functionality for vehicular traffic.

While MLK drivers who work close in the heart of downtown no longer have to take a detour to reach their destination, they can go only a short distance beyond Georgia Avenue, as heavy work continues to repave East Martin Luther King Boulevard.