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8 miles of Kingsport roads getting fresh asphalt

Matthew Lane • Jun 19, 2014 at 4:38 PM

KINGSPORT — A major resurfacing project taking place in downtown Kingsport has drawn people's attention on social media sites, with many questioning the work taking place and why Center Street has been reduced to three lanes.

Newspaper readers have known about this for weeks.

The $4.2 million project is being funded by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and calls for nearly eight miles of roads (Center, Lynn Garden and Stone Drive) getting a fresh layer of asphalt, new bicycle lanes and a lane adjustment for a good portion of Center Street.

What's been getting the most attention since work started last week has been the re-striping of the lanes through downtown Kingsport.

First mentioned in the Times-News in October last year and reported several times since then, Kingsport requested a "road diet" for Center Street through downtown, converting the four lanes into three, with two being travel lanes and a center, two-way left turn lane.

TDOT agreed, but now the road diet will run not only through downtown, but continue down Center Street to the Renaissance Center.

City officials say the change would improve safety, better manage the flow of traffic through downtown and possibly create better economic opportunities for businesses fronting Center Street.

However, the temporary re-striping (which will be done again when re-paving is completed) is causing some confusion for motorists. And they're going online to voice their frustration.

"Any time you have a new road realignment after many years in one configuration, it does take time for motorists to adjust," said Kingsport spokesman Tim Whaley.

The biggest concerns have been the transition areas near Roller Street and the Renaissance Center. The city is using temporary signs to help in those areas, with TDOT providing permanent signs after re-paving is complete.

Another question has been about the permissibility of using the bike lanes for turning movements when no bicycles are present. Once Center Street is re-paved, Whaley said the bike lanes at intersections will have dashed white lines, a signal to motorists that they can swing over into the bike lane for turning movements.

"At this point, we do expect asphalt to begin being placed Sunday night and ask that motorists bear with us until that point," Whaley said.

While there are concerns traffic transit times will be longer, Whaley said an independent traffic analysis indicates transit times would range from 17 seconds faster to nine seconds slower for the reconfigured area.

The resurfacing work on Center Street will go from the Reedy Creek Bridge to the intersection with Fort Henry Drive. That intersection will change to one dedicated lane flowing down Fort Henry and two going up the hill behind Dobyns-Bennett High School. The reason for the change is because traffic has been backing up at the intersection.

Other changes for Center Street include adding a left turn lane at Summer Street to make it easier for vehicles to turn to go to Lincoln Elementary School and the addition of bike lanes in the downtown area.

On Lynn Garden Drive, the re-paving will run from Stone Drive to the Virginia state line, and again, include all lanes and marking the shoulders as bike lanes, where no parking takes place.

The final phase of the resurfacing work will take place on Stone Drive from Fairmont Avenue to just east of Brookside Drive and include all seven lanes plus the shoulders. Both sides of Stone Drive will also receive three-foot wide bike lanes.

The contract calls for the work to be completed by Aug. 31.

During the course of the contract, the milling and paving will be performed Sundays through Thursdays, from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. Other work, such as sidewalk ramp construction, will be allowed during the day.

Lane closures will be done during the night, but none should take place during the daytime, except for maybe brief delays due to material being transported.

In all, approximately 7.8 miles of roads will be re-paved this summer.

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