Kingsport recently submitted the final construction plans to the Tennessee Department of Transportation for approval. A notice to proceed with the work is expected sometime this spring with actual construction starting later this year.
In all, the city plans to build roughly 1.7 miles of sidewalk down the south side of Stone Drive, from Texas Road House to Gibson Mill Road, then on the north side of the highway to Clinchfield Street.
It’s a project that dates back to November 2015 and one that’s been postponed a couple of times — once to address ADA compliance issues and another due to the rising price of construction, which resulted in the scope of the project being scaled back.
PURPOSE OF THE SIDEWALK
Deputy City Manager Ryan McReynolds explained that the purpose of building a sidewalk down Stone Drive isn’t to attract people to walk down the highway or to promote health and wellness. It’s being done to accommodate the folks already walking down Stone Drive.
“For Stone Drive, there’s quite a few people who actually have to walk, whether it’s to work or the store,” McReynolds said. “There are KATS (Kingsport Area Transit Service) stops on Stone Drive, so plenty of people are using KATS and sidewalks as their mode of transportation.”
Recognizing that this is taking place on Stone Drive already, McReynolds said that’s why the city is trying to build a much safer route for pedestrians, rather than having them walk on the shoulder of a highway or at an unprotected crossing.
MAKING SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS
It is illegal to walk across a state highway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where the pedestrian must yield the right-of-way to all vehicles. Yet people do it every day, often putting their lives at risk.
Three pedestrians have been killed along Stone Drive within the past three years, the latest in February when a 50-year-old woman was fatally struck while attempting to cross the highway near Fairmont Avenue.
“That’s why we’re moving down the path ... to build a portion of sidewalk along Stone Drive,” McReynolds said. “Then, we’ll begin improving or creating the crossing opportunities at the signals.”
Along Stone Drive, there are a few intersections with “pedestrian head” crossings — where a person pushes a button that shuts the intersection all the way down, which gives pedestrians the protected ability to cross the roads. Those can be found at Indian Trail, Clinchfield, New Beason Well Road and Eastman Road.
However, these types of crossings can’t be built anywhere, McReynolds explained. They need to have an adjoining sidewalk to go with them, and Kingsport needs to have permission from TDOT, since Stone Drive is the state’s road.
“You can’t just cross people from roadway to roadway. You have to have pedestrian accommodations on both sides,” McReynolds said.
Every intersection along Stone Drive that Kingsport has invested in over the past few years has been rebuilt with both the pedestrian head and striping, bringing it up to the highest standard for safe pedestrian crossing. A similar one will be built at the crossing at Gibson Mill, with an added concrete refuge in the middle of the road, built to TDOT standards, in case pedestrians can’t make it all the way across the road in time.