KINGSPORT - A multi-million realignment project - 16 months in the making - has wrapped up and Fordtown Road has officially re-opened for traffic.
More importantly, city officials say the realignment will help open up hundreds of acres of land for future commercial development in the Tri-Cities Crossing area of town.
"This project has been seen by the city as a key to opening up development in this area for at least 15 years," Mayor Dennis Phillips said.
The project consists of a new three-lane road with sidewalks slightly more than a mile from Interstate 81’s Exit 56 across a new three-lane bridge to the existing Fordtown Road at the Interstate 26 bridge over Fordtown.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation oversaw the project and Summers-Taylor Inc., performed the work. The cost of the project came in at approximately $5.578 million with 80 percent coming from federal transportation money to the Kingsport Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization and the remaining 20 percent coming from the City of Kingsport.
"This project is a huge step forward in the development of Kingsport’s Border Region Retail Tourism District, along with major investments being made by a private investor in grading and site preparation," City Manager John Campbell said Friday.
Local developer Stewart Taylor is currently grading more than 100 acres in the Tri-Cities Crossing area of town, and Campbell noted Kingsport has commercial interest throughout the border regions district.
The border regions district is a special taxation district where Kingsport can offer potential retailers and property owners incentives for creating and locating businesses within the district. Legislation approved in 2011 allows for the creation of such districts by border areas in Tennessee to help municipalities compete with neighboring states with lower sales tax rates.
"This site is probably the single most significant site for future commercial retail growth and development in the city over the next 10 years or so," Campbell said. "It has all the key ingredients, strong demographic, a reach that includes Kingsport and the growing residential areas of Gray and North Johnson City and ease of access to create the premiere super regional retail center in all of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia."