Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Salemtown Future Need #2: Complete Renovation and Buffering of the I-65 Interface with Salemtown

Unlike the construction of I-440 in the West End and Hillsboro areas, the cut of I-65 through Salemtown was completed without compromise, without regard for "children’s safety, the preservation of neighborhoods and sound protection from traffic." Traffic getting on and off I-65 at 8th Avenue, North veers dangerously close to pedestrian walkways.
Ramps seem to cut through some front yards, making some old houses useless shells or isolating whole blocks from the rest of the neighborhood. The cheap and plentiful chain link fences provide the only barriers dividing North Salemtown from zooming traffic, and nothing dampens the noise pollution of big-rig engines roaring by 24/7.

As weak as the effort is, Council Member Ludye Wallace's fence bill is partly intended to deal with problems of interstate exchange designs that erode the quality of local community life. But we need a more vigorous and comprehensive effort by our next council member to pursue a wholesale renovation to the I-65 corridor through Salemtown that includes many of the community-sensitive compromises that TDOT made with West End-Hillsboro neighbors when they put I-440 in the 1980s.

The Neighborhood Plan calls for noise walls and heavy landscaping along the perimeter of Salemtown. The plot of an interstate up against the walls and yards of urban neighborhoods without the addition of sound buffers is unconscionable. Our next council member needs to find ways to help us motivate TDOT to correct its obvious oversight.
The Neighborhood Plan also recommends landscaping in the 8th Avenue median, replacing the solid concrete that currently dominates and encourages more traffic problems as cars jump the curb and drive over the median to change directions.

Perhaps these renovations could be secured by a TDOT matching grant. The Metro Council approved one in April for Council Member Ginger Pepper. Our new member should contact Ms. Pepper and other connected leaders to try and generate the needed funds. Regardless of whether the make-over occurs slowly over a number of years or all at once, the District 19 council member should take every bold step possible to make the I-65 footprint more Salemtown-friendly.

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