Haslam Awards Trans Grants, Visits Frayser School

By Bill Dries

During a day in West Tennessee Thursday, July 26, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam talked about higher education on the campus of the University of Memphis-Lambuth campus in Jackson and dropped in on preparations for the first day of classes next month at Corning Achievement Elementary School.

The school is one of three in Frayser that are part of the state-run Achievement School District that makes its debut with the new school year.

Also in Memphis, Haslam awarded $1.5 million in three transportation enhancement grants including one to begin streetscape improvements in the Walker Avenue business district next to the University of Memphis campus.

The Walker Avenue merchants between North Highland Street and Brister Street have been planning street improvements for several years and had tried for federal funding in the last year but lost in the competition process then.

This time the project to create a pedestrian plaza area as well as modify parking areas to better separate pedestrians from auto traffic won $529,436 in funding for the first phase.

The money for that and the two other projects – the fourth phase of the Wolf River Greenway from North McLean Boulevard to Hollywood Street and the Highway 61 Blues Trail from the Mississippi state line to E.H. Crump Boulevard – is federal funding administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation for projects that include pedestrian and bicycle access as well as landscaping and even restoration of some historical sites.

The funding for the Wolf River Greenway was $666,523. The funding for the blues trail was $285,944.

University of Memphis president Dr. Shirley Raines said the Walker Avenue streetscape improvements for an area long a center of social life for students and now increasingly for alumni will help create “a vital, unique and significant place that transforms this entire area.”

Haslam said the project satisfied his administration’s desire to leverage some public funding in areas where such improvements to common areas will help spur continued investment by small businesses, especially locally owned businesses.

At Corning Elementary, Haslam spoke at a planning session teachers were holding to prepare for the Aug. 6 start of classes.

“What you’re doing here is incredibly important to your community and state,” Haslam told the group, according to a written statement.