Manchester, Tullahoma mobility plan to provide increased connectivity between both cities

BY KATE COIL
TML Communications Specialist

The cities of Manchester and Tullahoma have teamed up for a regional mobility plan that will increase alternative access in both communities, promote healthy lifestyles, encourage use of local parks, and create safe routes to schools.
The beginning of the mobility plan comes from a countywide bike and pedestrian plan developed to increase opportunities for safe exercise throughout the area. Representatives from both Manchester and Tullahoma sat on the council, including Manchester Parks and Recreation Director Bonnie Gamble.
Gamble said by working together with Tullahoma officials on the country bike and pedestrian plan, officials from both cities realized they had a lot of similar transportation challenges but also a lot of ways in which both municipalities could work together to better link the 10 miles between their city limits.
Tullahoma Planning and Codes Director Lee Lawson said the project seemed a natural move for both cities.
“Bonnie Gamble approached us about doing it as a joint project because it was already regional in the scope of the project,” Lawson said. “Whenever you apply for a planning grant from TDOT, you have to apply though the regional development district. The joint application is already stronger. We are both in the same rural planning organization, so we already take a regional approach to long-range transportation plans.”
Together, the cities applied for and received a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Community Transportation Planning Grant worth $89,809. Each city provided $4,989 in matching funds for the grant to finance the Tullahoma-Manchester Community Mobility Plan.
Working together, officials from both cities identified several major corridors they wanted to develop as part of the mobility plan:
State Highway 55 between Manchester and Tullahoma,
U.S. Highway 41 from Manchester City limits in the north end of the city through town to the AEDC interchange,
Old Manchester/Old Tullahoma Highway from the Manchester City Limits to the Tullahoma City Limits,
U.S. Highway 41A through Tullahoma from the Moore County Line south to the Franklin County line,
The area where the corridors of Carroll Street (State Highway 55) and East Lincoln Street run parallel west from the eastern city limits of Tullahoma to U.S. Highway 41A, and
Wilson Avenue (State Highway 55) from U.S. Highway 41A west to the Moore County line.

Jamie Sain, codes director of the city of Manchester, said the routes were selected because of their status as major thoroughfares or connectors.
“The planning grant is really supposed to focus on the state highway corridors we were concerned with,” Sain said. “We included both the current highways and the old highways that run adjacent to the current highways. We wanted all of our major corridors running through both cities as well as the corridors that connect both cities to be included in the project.”
Manchester Parks and Recreation Director Bonnie Gamble said the plan is useful for both state and local purposes.
“This plan gives TDOT a heads up as to what residents want in terms of pedestrian and bike lanes,” Gamble said. “When they do planning on the state roads, they know to include these now because there is a demand. TDOT plans out so far ahead that you need to have a community plan to show them what you need. This plan helps prioritize for both communities where sidewalk projects are most immediately needed, which is important for future development.”
When selecting the corridors for the plan, both cities looked at a variety of community needs. Tullahoma City Manager Jennifer Moody said improving both access to local parks and health alternatives were important priorities. Both local parks and state parks like the Short Springs Natural Area and Old Stone State Park are considerable attractions.
“We are between two major recreational lakes,” Moody said. “Manchester’s greenway connects into Old Stone State Park, which is both along a state highway and very close to their downtown. Both of our communities are building out our greenway systems together. This plan allows us to connect our two greenway systems.”
Gamble says both communities serve as gateways to local tourism opportunities.
“Tourism, economic, and community development are very important,” she said. “One of the big draws in our area is the Jack Daniels Distillery. The majority of people who come to visit Jack Daniels get off the interstate exit at Manchester and are going to travel down Highway 55 through Tullahoma. We have a lot of natural areas and state parks in the area, so we wanted to promote people to come to those as tourists.”
These major routes also serve numerous industrial needs for both communities.
“We also have three industrial parks and Tullahoma has one as well that connect on these highways,” Gamble said. “The highway also leads to Motlow Community College. We also have a joint industrial park that sits between Manchester and Tullahoma on Highway 55, so we wanted to look at what things we needed to consider as far as that area’s future growth.
Lawson said safety for students walking to school was also a community priority as lot of the accidents recorded on these routes in Tullahoma happen near schools.
“We don’t have a bus system with our city school system, and we go all the way up to high school,” Lawson said. “That was one of the big draws for us to do this plan. We have had a lot of issues with pedestrians crossing the road near the high school. The plan addresses conflict between the different modes of transportation.”
Moody said sidewalks are a major priority in the community.
“If there is one thing in our community that people are united on, it is that we need more sidewalks,” she said. “We see it as part of our economic development strategy to recruit families to Tullahoma. They want to be in places where they can be active and enjoy the outdoors. Greenways and sidewalks connect them to those recreational opportunities. They also want their kids to be able to walk or bike to school safely.”
Manchester Mayor Lonnie Norman said it is important for the two communities to come together on such a plan because they both rely on each other so much already.
“It’s a good project for both cities to work on, and both cities work really well together,” he said. “What’s good for Manchester is good for Tullahoma, and what is good for Tullahoma is good for Manchester.”
Lawson said the plan is a good investment for residents of Tullahoma and Manchester as well as those who live between the two city limits.
“Citizens from both towns benefit from a well-planned, safe, and extensive pedestrian and multi-modal transportation options,” Lawson said. “It’s what works best for both cities. It also helps those who live in the county between both cities, giving them access to safe transportation both between the cities and throughout the cities.”