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Kingsport planning major overhaul of crumbling Main Street

Matthew Lane • Updated Aug 28, 2017 at 9:32 AM

KINGSPORT — Main Street in downtown Kingsport is not the smoothest ride in town. Far from it in fact.

From Clay to Cherokee is particularly rough, with too many cracks and potholes for most motorists to endure. The problem lies with the soil under Main Street.

Over the past century, the soil that supports the roadway has weakened tremendously, and though the city has repaved sections in the past, the new asphalt surface simply fails within a few years. Therefore, fixing the root cause of the failure, the unsuitable soil conditions, is what Kingsport plans to do.

Though it might not seem like anything is happening, Kingsport is still planning to make a major investment to improve Main Street — both structurally and aesthetically. The city has earmarked $1.7 million toward the rebuild, with additional funding expected to come as the project continues.

Behind the scenes, Kingsport officials have met with various stakeholders: the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Kingsport Association, property and business owners, landlords and tenants. Last week, the city held a two-hour public meeting for residents to inspect the conceptual drawings for the project and ask any questions about what’s to come for Main Street.

Kingsport is looking to rebuild Main Street in three phases. The first would take care of the downtown core, from roughly Clay to Cherokee; the second from Cherokee to Sullivan; and the third from Clay to Market.

“The genesis of the whole project is the substructure failure. We would patch the potholes and they’d come back because the soils are not holding the roadway up like it should,” Assistant Public Works Director Michael Thompson said. “We started out with the need to fix that, but then said can we leverage our money into a bigger and better project and design a vision of what Main Street should and can be.”

The core of the project calls for rebuilding Main Street, digging down and removing the existing road structure and backfiling it with stone to produce a good, stable base, Thompson said. Main Street will be an asphalt road rather than concrete.

“Our design team tells us when you look at it, asphalt gives a different feel and aesthetic when you’re walking down the street. It’s typically more inviting to people than concrete streets,” Thompson said.

Conceptual drawings displayed at last week’s public meeting show new trees along both sides of Main Street from Sullivan to Market, bulbouts at Main and Cherokee, stamped brick crosswalks, handicapped ramps and a landscaped median from the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing to Market.

The project also calls for utilities to be placed underground, and, according to the conceptual drawings, one alternate build shows a roundabout at Main and Broad. But that’s not set in stone.

Thompson said the city would take all of the comments and feedback from the various meetings and compile them. An online survey about the project went live on Friday. Construction probably won’t begin until the spring  of 2019.

“We’ve just got a design concept right now that gives us a starting point for a discussion. We’re really trying to just seek everyone’s opinions,” Thompson said. “The design team will try and incorporate things people ask for, what’s possible and what’s not. Then get a final vision and develop it out further.”

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