KINGSPORT — After years of pushing the state and planning for improvements along State Route 126, work is expected to begin next week on making a nearly 9-mile stretch of the road safer for motorists.
Bill Albright, transportation planning manager for Kingsport, said contractor Summers-Taylor Inc. will begin Monday or Tuesday to install center-line rumble strips, reflective markers, reflective stripes and one new guard rail along the 8.7 mile stretch of Memorial Boulevard from Kingsport to Interstate 81 in Blountville.
“This is a very important project for TDOT, and they will be watching closely to see if it has the positive impact on safety that we hope for,” Albright said. “TDOT has recommended center line rumble strips and reflective markings to hopefully reduce the incidence of motorists crossing the center line.”
Albright said Summers-Taylor would first start on milling the road and installing the rumble strips, which should take just a couple of days. Once complete, the entire road will be re-striped with double-yellow, no-passing lines. A few days later, the contractor will return and install double-sided reflective markers along the center line.
The markers would be installed about every 40 feet in curves and 80 feet in straightaways, Albright said, noting the reflectors make the road much more visible at night.
“It distinguishes the lanes and allows you to see the curvature of the road and also complements the rumble strips, so they work together,” Albright said. “Plus at night, they’re really effective, particularly in the rain and bad weather.
The cost of the work will be $84,470, which comes from a safety enhancement grant awarded to Kingsport by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Albright said the project would take about three weeks to complete.
In addition to reflectors and rumble strips, approximately 300 to 500 feet of guardrail will be installed near the intersections of Harr Town Road and Cochise Trail.
City work crews also re-striped Memorial Boulevard to add a center turn lane and transition zone from just west of Tanglewood Drive to just east of Old Stage Road at the city limits.
During this period, message boards will be posted at both ends of Memorial to warn motorists of congested traffic when work is under way, and it is especially important for motorists to pay close attention during the entire month of September, Albright said.
Milling center-line rumble strips, installing reflectors and marking the road will be a continuously running operation during normal business hours, essentially slowing traffic at various points depending on the work progress and time of day.
If at all possible, motorists are advised to seek alternative routes whether heading toward Kingsport or Blountville. Extra police enforcement will be in place along the route to protect traffic workers, while placement of reflectors every 40 to 80 feet will require extra room for contractors.
This work is but a portion of a larger, more involved project to make Memorial Boulevard. a safer road for motorists.
Over the past four years, the city of Kingsport has been pushing for improvements to Memorial Boulevard from Center Street to Interstate 81. A community resource team worked for nearly two years, studying the road and working to create a concept plan on what improvements should be done to the heavily traveled road.
The group recommended to TDOT that Memorial Boulevard be four-laned from East Center to East Lawn Cemetery; from there the road should merge down to three lanes to Harrtown Road; and from Harrtown Road to I-81 the road should be two-laned with widened shoulders and improved curves.
In October 2005, TDOT accepted Kingsport’s recommendation, and in June 2006 Gov. Phil Bredesen authorized funding to conduct an environmental study for the Memorial Boulevard project.