For nearly five years now, some type of road construction has been taking place along Gibson Mill Road in connection with an overall effort to improve the roads in and around the Holston Valley Medical Center. The improvements have included the construction of two new roundabouts, the removal of the two switchbacks along Gibson Mill, a wider section of road from Stone Drive and a new entrance to the hospital.
Since February, the latest round of work has been to widen Gibson Mill to three lanes from Mill Pond to Robertson Street, tapering down to two lanes at Dorothy Street and continuing on to Watauga Street.
Michael Thompson, assistant public works director, said Thomas Construction had planned to perform the final paving on the road this week, but bad weather delayed the work.
“They’re planning to hit it with two paving machines (on Saturday) and hopefully get most of it done,” Thompson said, adding the road should be open for traffic Sunday evening or Monday morning depending on the weather.
Once the road opens, Thomas Construction has some remaining work to perform — minor sidewalk work, top soil placement and some clean-up work, Thompson said. This wrap-up work should not cause Gibson Mill to be closed to through traffic, but the road may have to go to one lane at times, Thompson said.
The most significant change to Gibson Mill has been replacing the existing bridge at the Greenbelt crossing with a new $1.2 million bridge and raising Gibson Mill Road at that location by approximately 12 feet. The Greenbelt now stretches underneath the road at this location, something city officials say should improve the safety of that section of trail.
Thomas Construction removed the traffic signal at Robertson and removed the bottom half of Broad Street Hill, but left the road open at the top of the hill to allow two property owners access to their driveways.
Kingsport plans to place a double-headed, large arrow sign at the top of the hill, showing the road is closed and the road will be narrowed with Park Drive to where the entrance looks like a driveway, Thompson said.
Work on this latest phase of Gibson Mill was scheduled to end Nov. 1, but Thomas Construction asked for and received a 21-day extension back in August due to some utility issues, pushing the deadline back to Nov. 22.
The schedule changed again a couple of months ago when the owners of Holston Floral complained to the city about how the construction and detours were adversely affecting their business. In response to the complaints, Thomas Construction changed the sequence of the work, first focusing on completing the road from Holston Floral to Mill Pond, then shifting to the other side of the floral shop.
This change added 30 days to the project — a Dec. 22 deadline. However, since the work is expected to wrap up on Sunday, a day after the deadline, Kingsport will hold back $1,000 from the final payment, Thompson said, as per the contract.
The latest phase of Gibson Mill improvement work is estimated to cost $3.58 million, and when all is said and done, Kingsport will have spent approximately $7 million on widening and improving the entire length of Gibson Mill from Stone Drive to the Watauga Street roundabout.
Public Works officials have talked about a future phase of work along Gibson Mill, on the opposite side of the roundabout, from Watauga to Sevier Avenue. The idea would be to replace the five-way intersection at Sevier, Tennessee and Boone with a four-way intersection.
Thompson said the city is in the conceptual design phase for this work and is uncertain when the matter would go before the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.