KINGSPORT — The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the next phase of the Stone Drive-Netherland Inn Road Connector Project last week — an in-depth study that aims to identify alternatives to link the west end of Stone Drive to Netherland Inn Road in the vicinity of Ridgefields Road.
Kingsport has long had the desire for better connections from Netherland Inn to Stone, given that the main existing connection is down Lilac Street, a heavily used but dangerous corridor with an at-grade railroad crossing. Studies on possible connections were done in the 1970s and in 2001.
In 2009, Kingsport hired Mattern and Craig to study the issue and they returned with two recommendations: tie Union Street into Ridgefields Road and improve the intersection at Fort Robinson; or tie Fort Robinson into Granby and signalize the intersection.
M&C estimated the first option to cost $4.8 million and include an above-grade crossing with the railroad tracks and removing the Lilac crossing. The second option has a projected cost of $6.3 million and includes tunneling under the railroad tracks and removing the Lilac crossing.
Today, the next phase of the project — as approved by the BMA last week — calls for the creation of a Transportation Planning Report, a study required by the Tennessee Department of Transportation since federal funds are expected to be used in the construction of any new connections.
“It’s a standard part of moving the project forward since we’re utilizing federal funds,” said Michael Thompson, assistant public works director for the city. “It looks at the different options, defining them as we go forward.”
In October, Kingsport advertised a request for qualifications and a letter of interest from consulting firms to conduct the TPR, but ultimately TDOT selected the Model City to perform the study. Thompson said the early work performed by Mattern and Craig back in 2009 would be rolled into the TPR.
“The level of study paid for by the city early on was not as in-depth as the TPR is,” Thompson said. “You have to go through and look at the different alternatives and weigh the benefits and weaknesses of each one.”
The TPR could result in an opinion where nothing is done, one alignment could have two alternatives or two different alignments could be revealed during the process. Once the TPR is complete, Kingsport will have options that will then be carried on to the next phase of the overall project, the environmental phase, which will look at the historical and environmental impact of each alignment.
“We’re years away from construction on the project,” Thompson said, probably a minimum of five years.
The TPR will be funded 80 percent with federal funds and 20 percent with local funds. Thompson said he hopes work would begin on the TPR in February and take approximately 120 days to complete.