Motorists rejoice: Kingsport reopens Sullivan Street

Matthew Lane • Dec 22, 2015 at 3:46 PM

KINGSPORT — City officials celebrated the reopening of West Sullivan Street on Tuesday by ceremonially removing the barricades — just in time for Christmas.

“It’s a wonderful holiday present to our community,” said Mayor John Clark. “I’m so proud of city staff for once again delivering a first-class project on time and within budget.”

The $1.67 million project began six months ago and widened Sullivan Street to three lanes from Clinchfield Street to just before Church Circle. The project added an eight-foot-wide mobility path on the north side of the road and a sidewalk on the south side, water and stormwater lines were upgraded and overhead utilities were placed underground to improve the aesthetics of the roadway.

Decorative light poles now illuminate the street and sidewalk, while bulb-outs at intersections allow pedestrians to have a shorter walking distance and less exposure to vehicles. A raised crosswalk at the intersection of Sullivan, Clay and Charlemont is forthcoming, city officials have said.

West Sullivan Street was the original Knoxville Highway, and since its construction nearly 100 years ago, City Manager Jeff Fleming noted there has not been much more than routine maintenance done to the road.

“As traffic increased, turn lanes were painted at key intersections to relieve bottlenecks, but the roadway was never widened,” Fleming told the crowd at Tuesday’s event. “For as long as I can remember, drivers cringed when three cars were side by side on this road. It felt as if you would clip off your neighboring driver’s mirrors. That’s how tight it felt.”

Fleming said his predecessor — City Manager John Campbell  challenged city staff in 2006 to identify and prioritize long known issues on local roads — issues that everybody talked about, but nobody had ever tried to fix.

Since 2007, Fleming said, Kingsport has methodically checked off that list, investing nearly $30 million.

“We squeezed a century’s worth of deferred needs into a very short timeline — many of which were added to our plate through annexation,” Fleming said.

Next up for Kingsport will be to rebuild Main Street, complete the last remaining section of Rock Springs Road and replace the Fort Robinson bridge, Fleming said.

Due to the high cost of completing the entire stretch at one time, the city broke the Sullivan Street improvement project into phases.

In May 2013, the city wrapped up the first phase of the work — rebuilding and widening the intersection at Clinchfield, installing concrete and adding an 8-foot-wide mobility path along the north side of Sullivan. The cost: $926,000.

Tying in with this second phase of work was the repaving of Church Circle, which wrapped up earlier this month, with an estimated cost of approximately $120,000.

The third phase of the overall Sullivan Street project calls for improving the road from Clinchfield to Lynn Garden Drive and has an estimated cost of $2.1 million. This phase has previously been in the city’s five-year capital improvement plan, but no money has been earmarked for it.

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