KINGSPORT - One of the most heavily traveled bypass routes in the Model City will receive a multimillion dollar face-lift in the coming years, an effort that aims to improve access and the flow of traffic along the two-lane road.
The Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen earlier this year approved a $10 million bond issuance for a variety of capital improvement projects within the city. Four million dollars has been earmarked to realign and improve Gibson Mill Road.
Kingsport agreed to do this project in connection with Wellmont Health System's Project Platinum - a $100 million improvement project at Holston Valley Medical Center.
"We've been working very closely with Wellmont. They have a goal to improve direct access to the hospital from Stone Drive," said Jeff Fleming, assistant city manager for development in Kingsport. "It would improve the intersection, add some turn lanes, and then there would be a much more direct connect from Stone Drive straight down to a new roundabout, which would be right in front of where the Boys and Girls Club sits today."
Wellmont purchased the Boys and Girls Club in July 2006 for $5.2 million with plans to demolish the building and make the site the new entranceway to Holston Valley.
The project calls for Gibson Mill Road to be realigned into a more perpendicular angle with Stone Drive and widened at that intersection. Fleming said plans call for a double left turn lane from Stone to Gibson Mill and for Gibson Mill to maybe have up to five lanes at the intersection.
"It'll be a much larger intersection than it is today," Fleming said.
A new road will be built going toward the Boys and Girls Club, and a roundabout is called for roughly where the club's parking lot is located.
"If you go 180 degrees around it and through the other side, it will be a straight shot down Lee Street, and it would transition back into Gibson Mill Road," Fleming said. "It takes out those switchback turns that you currently have to negotiate on Gibson Mill."
From the roundabout, Fleming said there would be a new private road that cuts through the middle of the Boys and Girls Club property and involves a new bridge over Reedy Creek. That road would tie back into Cassel Drive and continue on around the perimeter of the hospital and tie back into Ravine Road as a more direct entrance, Fleming said.
The section of Gibson Mill heading toward Bloomingdale would be widened with a turn lane added, Fleming said, noting nothing will be done to the bridge over that section of road.
When the work is done, Fleming said there will be pieces of Gibson Mill that will become culs-de-sac, but the work will not cut off access to any business, and there will be no change to Windsor
The project does call for some property acquisition - two residences along Gibson Mill and two businesses at the intersection with Stone Drive.
In addition to the realignment and widening project, other money has been earmarked for other improvements to Gibson Mill, including a proposed roundabout at the intersection with Watauga and the replacement of the bridge over Reedy Creek.
Fleming said the city is in the process of evaluating those improvements and will bring recommendations to the BMA at a future date.
In the recent $10 million bond issuance, the Watauga roundabout is earmarked at $700,000 and the bridge at $600,000.
Mike Thompson, traffic engineer for the city, said a public hearing on the project is scheduled for next month, with the matter going before the Kingsport Regional Planning Commission on June 21.
Thompson said the city expects a spring 2008 start date, with the project finishing up by the end of 2008.
"The existing public roads are proposed to be funded by the city, and the new corridor through the Boys and Girls Club and new bridge will be funded by the hospital," Fleming said. "The bridge project is controlled by the hospital, and until that bridge is built and functioning, we're timed to coincide with that. The timeline is contingent on when they get the bridge finished."
In 2005, approximately 8,458 vehicles traveled down Gibson Mill every day. Thompson said that number is expected to increase once the improvements are made.
"We expect it to increase, particularly up on the section from Stone Drive to the new road at the hospital," Thompson said.