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Which version of Main Street do you prefer?

Matthew Lane • Aug 20, 2018 at 9:21 AM

KINGSPORT - City leaders have a choice to make when it comes to the appearance of Main Street. The overhead power lines that stretch from Sullivan to Cherokee, do you leave them alone, move them across the street or move them to the other side of the railroad tracks?

It all comes down to cost and just how much the Board of Mayor and Aldermen are willing to spend to improve the look of one of the gateways to downtown Kingsport.

FIXING MAIN STREET

Because of bad soil conditions beneath the road, Main Street has structural problems and Kingsport officials for years have been planning to rebuild and improve the road.

Conceptual drawings show the rebuild taking place in three phases with new trees along both sides of Main Street from Sullivan to Market, bulb outs at Main and Cherokee, stamped brick crosswalks, handicapped ramps and a landscaped median from the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing to Market.

The roughly $5.5 million project will be funded 80 percent by state and federal funds and 20 percent from local funds. Kingsport plans to rebuild Main Street an asphalt road rather than concrete.

OVERHEAD POWER LINES

The BMA was recently told that the project is at a standstill until a decision is made about what to do with the overhead power lines that run down Main Street. Right now, there’s three options on the table, according to Assistant City Manager for Operations Ryan McReynolds.

1) Do nothing and keep the power lines where they are.

2) Move the transmission lines across the street at an estimated cost of $1 million to $1.5 million.

3) Move the transmission lines adjacent to the railroad tracks. Estimated cost is $3.1 million.

With both option 2 and 3, the distribution and communications lines would go underneath the newly rebuilt Main Street. Both options also have one set of transmission lines crossing Main Street at the power station at the block of Cherokee and Commerce.

With both option 2 and 3, the distribution and communications lines would go underneath the newly rebuilt Main Street. Both options also have one set of transmission lines crossing Main Street at the power station at the block of Cherokee and Commerce.

The BMA is awaiting a refined cost estimate from AEP for option 2 before proceeding with a decision.

Whichever way the BMA chooses to go, the funding would come from the AEP franchise fee. Specifically, the 10 percent earmarked for beautification efforts.

RECENT DISCUSSION

Mayor John Clark’s position is Kingsport should relocate the power lines underneath Main Street.

“If our downtown is the future of Kingsport, which I believe it is, we should do everything possible to beautify our city. “The power lines are an eye sore. I just don’t know how Kingsport can be taken serious, how we can attract investment if we’re not willing to invest in the city like never before.”

The remainder of the BMA appeared to support moving the power lines across the street, mainly due to the cost of placing them underground.

“I’m having a hard time with the numbers,” said Alderwoman Betsy Cooper on the $3 million price tag. “I’d like to see (the money) have more of an impact. We need to do something that brings synergy and interest to Nolen Square.”

Vice-Mayor Mike McIntire said he would like to place the power lines underground, but added the price tag is steep. Alderwoman Jennifer Adler pointed out the many issues with Sullivan Street, saying “Main Street still feels like a back door.”

Alderwoman Colette George noted that if Kingsport were go to with the underground option, the move would tie up more than half of the beautification money for the next 20 years.

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