The City of Portland received a Transportation Alternatives Program Grant (TAP) from the Tennessee Department of Transportation last week in the amount of $697,477 for the Richland Park Sidewalk Connector.
The grant will fund construction of sidewalks along Wheeler Street, N. Russell Street, High Street, and Portland Boulevard. It will include curbs and gutters. The announcement was made by Sen. Ferrell Haile and Rep. William Lamberth on May 6.
According to Mayor Mike Callis, the application for the grant came from studies the city had been conducting as they worked through the new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) plan.
He said he and others spent some time walking around the city to evaluate areas around town that would be difficult for people with disabilities to navigate. The area from city hall to the library and Richland Park stood out as an area that would be difficult.
As city leaders were looking at ways to fund a sidewalk improvement project in that area, Stormwater Manager Carlton Cobb suggested that the Alternative Transportation Grant might be a source for funding the project.
Callis said, “We applied with little hope of receiving it; but I got a call last week from Rep. William Lamberth that Portland had been selected. We are also fortunate enough to have some available Surface Transportation Block Grant funds that will help cover some of our cost associated with the project as well. This will be a nice addition to our city.”
Haile said, “The purpose is to connect the municipal buildings with the library, and to make the sidewalks ADA compliant. It is health related in making it safer. It pulls the library into the downtown area and that helps the downtown program. It will also have a positive economic effect on Portland.
“By making our sidewalks ADA-compliant, we will ensure everyone in our community has safe, reliable access to Richland Park,” Lamberth said. “Through greater access to parks and amenities, we will have a healthier, more active community and better quality of life for all.
“I want to specifically thank Mayor Callis and Portland’s leadership team for their vision to apply for this project. It was an honor to support their efforts, and (I) appreciate TDOT’s investment in Portland.”
Callis added that until the city receives the grant paperwork, officials will not be able to fully evaluate if the project is feasible for the city at this time. The effect of COVID-19 on city revenues may result in the city not being able to afford to do the project until a later date.
According to a press release, the TAP program began providing funds to local governments in 1991. More than $317 million in grants has been distributed by the department since to improve access and provide a better quality of life for the people of Tennessee. The money has gone to 267 communities across the Volunteer State to build sidewalks, bike and pedestrian trails and to renovate historic train depots and other transportation related structures.