A safer, more comfortable corridor: City proposes changes for Watkins-Cleveland-Bellevue corridor

A week’s worth of public outreach and engagement sessions culminated with a Design Charrette event this Thursday, Sept. 22, where the team from the City of Memphis Bikeway and Pedestrian Program presented the latest from their Memphis Better Streets Project. The project proposes to make the Watkins-Cleveland-Bellevue corridor a safer and more comfortable place for Memphians to live, work, and play.

It is, as Nicholas Oyler, Bikeway and Pedestrian Program Manager for the City of Memphis, said at the top of the program, a “massive project.”

“This project, what we’re calling the Better Streets Project — and it’s streets-plural, because it’s actually a pretty massive project,” Oyler said. “It’s about an 8- or 9-mile-long corridor, stretching from Chelsea and Watkins in North Memphis, going all the way south to Brooks and Elvis Presley Boulevard in South Memphis. That includes segments of Watkins, Bellevue, and Elvis Presley Boulevard.”

Passers-by were asked to place a sticker on what improvements they’d like to see happen.
The work presented at the Design Charette wasn’t just an academic exercise. The Watkins-Cleveland-Bellevue corridor is set to receive a significant $8.1 million redesign, this thanks to the project being federally-funded by a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant. The process started roughly six months ago and, since then, the Better Streets team has gathered input from more than 1,000 residents along the corridor, which has shaped their findings and subsequent suggestions for making the corridor a safer, more comfortable place to live and travel.

The Design Charrette concluded a week-long series of events where the Better Streets team and local stakeholders engaged the surrounding communities through a series of tours and open houses, including walking and running tours, bus tours, and more. A pop-up bus stop helped draw attention to the project and gather feedback from passers-by.

“This is an important corridor for the city because it’s one of the few corridors in this part of town that’s a north-south running route. The way Memphis has developed over the years was from west to east. So we have a lot of streets running along that axis but we have fewer going this way,” Oyler said. “There’s been a lot of work and momentum happening along this corridor in recent years and I think it’s just going to build up more in the years ahead.”

The Design Charrette concluded a week-long series of events where the Better Streets team and local stakeholders engaged the surrounding communities through a series of tours and open houses, including walking and running tours, bus tours, and more.
Through their research and outreach efforts, the Better Streets team identified three focus areas that could receive the bulk of attention: Alcy-Ball, Bellevue, and Cleveland. At the Charrette, the team introduced their proposals for each.

At Alcy-Ball, the team proposes adding landscaping and trees, lighting, and elevated-surface bus stops along the streets. At Bellevue, the team suggests reducing travel lanes down to three lanes and adding a multi-use path or sidewalk, as well as elevated-surface bus stops. And at Cleveland, they suggest adding bike lanes, buffering the roadways with trees and landscaping, and perhaps taking out the turn lane to introduce on-street parking, which could prove an attractive option for the neighboring businesses. At each focus area, community members expressed the desire for art and storytelling signage that helps reflect each neighborhood’s sense of place; the Better Streets team also included that factor in their proposal.

So what next? With the Charrette complete, the Better Streets team moves on to the design phase, where they’ll come up with concrete plans for the corridor redesign. The public outreach and engagement portion of the project hasn’t ended, however, and, in fact, the team says that communication will increase during the design phase and then even more so once construction begins. Being proactive in outreach and engagement is key to making the project a success.

A pop-up bus stop helped draw attention to the project and gather feedback from passers-by.
Improving the Watkins-Cleveland-Bellevue corridor is an exciting opportunity, Oyler said, and one that will impact a wide swath of Memphians, from north to south and back again.

“This is a corridor that touches very diverse neighborhoods,” he said. “You travel through here and you’re passing through all walks of life in Memphis.”

Visit the Memphis Better Streets Project at www.bikepedmemphis.wordpress.com for the latest happenings.