One project he already has in the works is the addition of a raised crosswalk — with flashing lights to alert oncoming motorist when people are actually using that safety zone to cross the street — between the sidewalk in front of the courthouse and the other side of “The Great Stage Road” (as SR126 is designated through the historic district) and the other side of the street, near the BB&T bank.
“It is first and foremost a public safety issue,” Venable told the Times-News on Thursday. “People go back and forth across that section of the roadway constantly throughout the day, including employees from our governmental offices and members of the public coming to those offices. I’ve even seen a person using a walker come across that street.”
Venable announced his quest for a safer crossing to the full Sullivan County Commission at its last meeting, asking if any commissioners had any questions, suggestions or objections. No one was critical of the idea.
Venable said he has contacted the Tennessee Department of Transportation and subsequently asked Sullivan County Highway Commissioner Jim Belgeri to get price estimates for pre-constructed crosswalk with the flashing lights and the elevated walkway.
It is not intended to be a “speedbump,” per se, but the type of crosswalk Venable is describing often does slow traffic, even when no one is in the crosswalk and the lights are not flashing.
Venable said the crosswalk near the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, which crosses West Main Street in downtown Kingsport, is the type design he is suggesting.
“That’s what I’ve asked Mr. Belgeri to look for,” Venable said. “And I will admit that I do want to slow traffic down out here on 126.”
The speed of some vehicles headed west on 126, which puts them on a blocks-long, no-stops, downhill run leading toward the courthouse and the intersection shortly thereafter with Highway 394, can “get away really quick,” Venables said — especially heavily loaded trucks.
There’s also a reason other than public safety to try to slow or divert heavy traffic from the section of SR126 in question, Venable said.
“It may not be legal to prohibit heavy trucks from this section, because it is a state road, but whatever I can do legally to divert traffic off 126, I would like to do that as a part of historic preservation,” Venable said.
In fact, some of the historic buildings surrounding the courthouse already have suffered damage to their foundations, blamed at least in part on vibrations from passing traffic.
Venable said one vision for the roadway is to eventually make it a one-way street through the historic district, with angled parking and curb-outs.
Long range plans for the historic district are to limit traffic and make it a pedestrian-friendly place.
The suggested placing of the crosswalk would lead from an area near some shade trees and a picnic table on the bank’s side of the street, and end on the courthouse side closer to the the set of entrance doors near the glass elevator in the modern addition section of the building, Venable said.
One regulation for its installation is that about 30 feet of curbside flanking the crosswalk will have to be striped and marked as “no parking.”
“It’s one of those good things we can do that might really make a difference one day, that difference being a life or a disability,” Venable said. “I’ve thought about it for two years. We just didn’t have the money last year.”