|TDOT to address Square redesign|
|Wednesday, March 20, 2013|
By SABRINA GARRETT
It’s no secret that public opinion on the redesign of the Downtown Public Square is on both sides of the fence – or in Lebanon’s case – both sides of General Hatton.
That is why State Senator Mae Beavers has arranged for Tennessee Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Paul Degges to participate in a public meeting scheduled this Friday at the Wilson County Courthouse at 4 p.m.
Beavers said she was asked by constituents to hold a public meeting after news was released that she attended a small meeting on South Maple to hear the concerns of those opposed to the proposed redesign, which would transform the square into a true roundabout.
At the time, Beavers said that “Anytime a constituent wants to have a meeting, I try to be there. I think it was productive and they got some of their questions answered.”
However, by holding a much larger meeting at the courthouse, those who are in favor of the redesign will have the opportunity to voice their opinions as well. “The meeting is for anyone with questions. The chief engineer will be there and they will be able to see a presentation of the plan,” Beavers explained.
Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said that he is currently making attempts to contact Beavers and see how the city can assist in the meeting. Craighead had announced his own plans to hold a public meeting earlier this year, but said a date would not be set until public surveys could be collected. Although Beavers is holding a similar meeting on Friday, Craighead said he will still go through with hosting a public forum if need be.
The surveys were issued via email and online, giving the public the opportunity to express their thoughts on the redesign of the square – which as proposed would be provided by TDOT at no cost to the city of Lebanon.
Craighead said that a TDOT representative would be coming by his office Tuesday to pick up the 663 surveys to get feedback on the project. According to results released, of those surveys – only seven were in opposition.
Not all respondents answered every question, but Craighead said it was clear from the surveys that the majority was in support of the redesign. When asked if safety was a concern on the square, 489 answered yes while only five answered no. When asked if phases of construction over a five month period would keep them from shopping on the square, 38 answered yes while 595 answered no.
Comments from those in support of the TDOT Safety Project included statements like “Let’s do it, finally!” -“Much needed, people have been injured. Are we waiting for someone to be killed or permanently disabled?” and “Safety first, but Square is and has been an eye-sore for a long time.”
Comments from those in opposition included that the TDOT plans “look like a cookie-cutter,” “It is not that much of a safety issue to change the layout” and “I do not like the idea of taking away the middle parking and leaving no access to Gen. Hatton.”