Kingsport wasting money on sidewalks to nowhere

Editorial Board • Feb 16, 2016 at 10:18 AM

The City of Kingsport is ponying up a mere $34,900 to leverage $666,000 in state money for pedestrian improvements in the city.

Sounds like a great deal. For that money, the city will be getting two miles of new sidewalk, and goodness knows, Kingsport needs sidewalks. There are many streets within the city that lack them, forcing pedestrians to take to the roads.

The city will be bidding the work this fall with construction likely to begin next year. The state money comes in the form of a grant from a Tennessee Department of Transportation program called Multi-Modal Access Fund, aimed at providing money for improving interconnectivity within a community via new and improved bicycle routes, sidewalks, transit stops and narrowing roads to restrict traffic volume.

Because of its success with this first grant, Kingsport has applied for another. Last month the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the grant request for $940,000 in state funds to build another 1.5 miles of sidewalk. The local cost would be $49,600.

And so with $34,900 for the first two miles of sidewalk plus $49,600 for another mile and a half, we’re getting into some significant local money here — around $85,000.

And it’s $85,000 wasted.

For that money the city could build sidewalk where it’s needed and would be used. Instead, Kingsport is looking to spend 85,000 local taxpayer dollars and some 1,600,000 state taxpayer dollars to build three and a half miles of sidewalk — where you would least expect to find sidewalk. And that’s along Stone Drive.

The first grant will build sidewalk on the south side of Stone Drive from Stonebrook Place all the way to American Way, which is just before the southbound ramp to John B. Dennis Highway. When done, you may drive over to Stonebrook Place (because there isn’t any other way to get there — it’s not connected to any other city streets except Stone Drive) and then park your car. There’s no public parking, but there are a few private places you might park for a bit.

Then, you can take the new sidewalk to window shop the nearly dozen car dealers on down Stone Drive from Stonebrook. Maybe you’ll find a new car you like; won’t take but a half hour or so to walk back to Stonebrook so you can drive back to the dealership.

There are plenty of businesses along the south side of Stone Drive to visit on foot — you’d be putting your life at risk in trying to cross to the north side. Of course, these businesses all have parking so that you don’t have to walk to them. Nor will you be able to use the new sidewalk to get from one part of town to another because there’s only one way to access Stone Drive from the city proper between John B. Dennis and Stonebrook Place, and that’s Eastman Road.

But if Kingsport gets the other grant, in several years there will be sidewalk along Stone Drive from Lynn Garden Drive to John B. Dennis. Again, it really won’t do pedestrians much good since practically anywhere you want to go on Stone you’ll need to drive because of the distance.

But the new sidewalk could serve as another walking trail for Kingsport if you don’t mind the noise and the vehicle exhaust from the city’s busiest thoroughfare.

As well, it will be a dangerous walk given the number of vehicles pulling into and out of parking lots all along Stone Drive.

But not to worry. Because like the proposed Gravina Island Bridge, a half-billion dollar project to build what was called a bridge to nowhere because few if any would use it, these sidewalks to nowhere will serve as a monument to government waste.

Kingsport Times News Videos