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Sidewalk projects to begin at Kingsport schools

Rick Wagner • May 27, 2013 at 10:25 PM

KINGSPORT — Sidewalk improvements are coming later this summer to two Kingsport elementary schools.

And it only took nearly five years for work to start.

In October 2008, then-Gov. Phil Bredesen announced Kingsport would receive a $215,000 Safe Routes to School grant for sidewalk and crosswalk improvements at Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools, along with educational programs and promotional activities to encourage walking and biking.

Since then work has been delayed by stimulus-funded re-paving projects, two rounds of bidding where the bids came in way over budget and all along the way, the Tennessee Department of Transportation had to approve every step of the process.

To get the project back on track, Kingsport had to reduce the scope by about two-thirds , said Michael Thompson, assistant public works director for the city.

The original project included adding 1,400 linear feet of sidewalk at Kennedy and 1,700 linear feet of sidewalk at Roosevelt. With the change in scope, Roosevelt will lose the new section of sidewalk slated for Lake Street and at Kennedy, the sidewalk behind the school from Sunset Avenue will be removed from the project.

Now, both schools will receive a total of 1,100 feet of sidewalks.

Duco Construction was the low bidder for the project at $123,150 and a pre-construction conference was held earlier this month. Thompson said Duco is scheduled to begin work June 3 and complete the job by Aug. 30.

In comparison, Kingsport has built nearly two miles of sidewalk down Wilcox Drive to the new aquatic center in less than a year.

That work did not involve state funds.

Of the original Safe Routes to School grant, approximately $187,000 was for construction and $28,000 for educational purposes. Since the low bid came in at $123,150, that leaves approximately $64,000 left over.

“There is a CEI (Construction Engineering Inspector) that has to be hired. We’re required to have a certified CEI and our city inspectors do not have that level of training, so we have to hire outside for that,” Thompson said. “And there’s a six-percent contingency. Whatever is left at the end of the project will be turned back in to the state to redistribute out to future projects.”

However, given that the most recent federal authorization does not include any funding for the Safe Routes to Schools program, there may not be any money to redistribute.

Since receiving the first Safe Routes to Schools grant more than four years ago, Kingsport has receive two additional ones.

The second grant came in June 2010 for $172,824 and is intended to build 1,110 feet of sidewalks, handicap ramps, bridge security features and crosswalk improvements around Andrew Jackson Elementary School.

The environmental document has been approved and TDOT gave Kingsport notice to proceed with the design phase of the project.

“The plans are near completion and we’re working on getting it submitted to TDOT for approval,” Thompson said. “Once TDOT is happy with the documents, they’ll give us a notice to proceed with the construction and allow us to advertise the project. Realistically, we’ll begin next spring.”

Kingsport will have to obtain right-of-way access with one property, also requiring TDOT approval. Estimated cost of the project is $134,000.

The third Safe Routes to Schools grant came in January 2012 for $46,200 and is to provide bicycle and pedestrian safety education at 11 city schools. The BMA approved a measure earlier this month on how the funds would be allocated.

According to the measure, the safety education includes the purchase of technology and literature ($15,250), incentives and contests ($11,750), supplies and equipment ($5,000), promotion and advertising ($4,000) and a public awareness campaign ($3,000).

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