City Council deliberates Downtown Mobility Plan, including two-way streets and pedestrian access
Published 4:02 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023
BY ROBERT SORRELL
Two-way streets and bicycle and pedestrian access were just two of many topics discussed during an Elizabethton City Council workshop meeting on Tuesday regarding a proposed Downtown Mobility Plan.
Last month, council members deferred a vote on the adoption of the Downtown Elizabethton Community Mobility Plan, which has been developed through a Tennessee Department of Transportation grant. The council wanted to learn more about the plans before its adoption.
The city applied for TDOT’s Urban Transportation Planning Grant in 2021 and learned it had received the $175,000 grant in 2022, according to Assistant City Manager Logan Engle. The only requirement for the city is to adopt the plan upon completion.
Engle said the purpose of the study was to better understand the wants and needs of the public. Meetings were held and an online survey was conducted to get feedback.
A total of 376 people, which included business owners, Elizabethton residents and visitors, took the survey. Engle said participants shared many concerns about downtown mobility, including speed, circulation issues related to one-way traffic, confusion at Elk Avenue’s “curve and merge,” enhanced landscaping, alleys and lighting.
The study contractor, WSP, went over the draft plans during Tuesday’s workshop. The plan includes transitioning downtown’s one-way streets to two-way streets. In addition, it recommends adding a landscaped median to Elk Avenue through downtown.
The plans also include intersection improvements, raised crosswalks, dedicated bicycle lanes, signage and wayfinding guidance, and various beautification projects.
Council members also looked at work that was implemented along Cumberland Avenue near the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
If the city decides to move forward with any of the Elizabethton plans, it also recommends upgrading aging downtown utilities such as water and sewer lines.
Council members shared concerns about how events, such as the annual Christmas parade, might be affected by changing Elk Avenue to a two-way road with a median. Engle and Main Street Director Courtney Bean said those issues have been discussed and the parade would still go on.
In addition, council briefly discussed questions about parking. Engle said the downtown currently has more than 900 parking spaces available. If changes are implemented, which would include loading and unloading spaces, the city would only lose about seven spots, she said. The plans also call for directional signs for parking.
If the council adopts the plans, it does not mean the plans will go into effect, Engle said. The city could take on just a couple of the ideas, or all of them, she said.
The goal is to lay the groundwork for future grant applications for funding should council pursue the recommendations, Engle said.
City Manager Daniel Estes said there are also plans in the works to connect the Tweetsie Trail with the city’s linear trail system.