In the lead up to the aquatic center project, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed some type of walking and biking path needed to exist along Wilcox Drive to the aquatic center, given how some children and adults routinely walked and biked to the Legion Pool from nearby neighborhoods.
Kingsport planned to have the sidewalk completed by the time the aquatic center opened in May and for the most part, the pathway does exist, but issues arose with the two bridges on Wilcox Drive, which has slowed progress on the overall project.
“What we have built is a pathway, more or less, that can get you to the aquatic center,” said Ryan McReynolds, public works director for the city.
The issues with the sluice and Holston River bridges involve meeting the requirements of the Tennessee Department of Transportation in how to safely get pedestrians across. To meet the requirements, McReynolds said Kingsport plans to build a 7-foot-wide, 6-inch raised sidewalk across the bridges and to raise the exterior wall by about 20 inches to make the bridges both safe for pedestrians and crash-worthy for vehicles.
“We’re working through getting the final plans approved and we’re about 90 percent complete,” McReynolds said, noting the city plans to begin work on the bridges after Labor Day and have it completed before Memorial Day 2014. “Our goal is to be definitely done before next season begins.”
Kingsport originally budgeted $500,000 for the construction of the Wilcox Drive mobility path.
Phase one of the project created a sidewalk from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Industry Drive and cost $83,825. Phase two ran from the BP gas station to Meadowview Parkway and cost $230,725.
Phase three picked up at the BP gas station and stretched to the sluice bridge to the tune of $64,249 while a fourth phase, the cheapest thus far at $35,000, reconfigured the ramp intersection at Riverport Road and Wilcox Drive, removing the acceleration lane along Wilcox Drive.
McReynolds noted Kingsport did not feel comfortable with pedestrians using the bridge with the acceleration lane in place.
In total, Kingsport has spent $413,800 on the mobility path to date. McReynolds said a cost estimate on the final phase of the project is not known at this time and since the work involves TDOT bridges, the city would be requesting the work be paid for with federal Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization funds.