City Council to consider ‘missing link’ sidewalks project for West Elk Avenue

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler

Star Correspondent

A resolution supporting the city’s application for a $1,187,500 multimodal access grant to install nearly 4,000 feet of sidewalk along a stretch of Elk Avenue will go before the Elizabethton City Council on Thursday night.

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Funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation multimodal access grant would be used to construct 6-foot-wide “missing link” sidewalks on Elk Avenue from the entrance to Sycamore Shoals State Park to the intersection of Patriot Drive/Bemberg Drive. The project would also include ADA-compliant ramps, pedestrian signals (ped-heads), and crosswalks at intersections.

Elizabethton Planning Director Rich DesGroseillier said the state grant would fund 95 percent of the project, while the city’s match would be the remaining $62,500. The application deadline for the grant is July 15.

Sidewalks are presently available to pedestrians from near the state Route 91 intersection with Elk Avenue to the western section of Sycamore Shoals State Park, DesGroseillier said in an email Monday. “This project will reduce the amount of ‘missing link’ sidewalks along this corridor,” he said, explaining that state and federal governments want sidewalks and/or multimodal trails along major roadways.

“We need to think about pedestrian and bicycle movement, not just vehicular traffic patterns,” said DesGroseillier, who believes the project “will provide a safer pedestrian traffic movement” along the north side of West Elk Avenue and safer places to cross West Elk Avenue. He said the goal would be to have a sidewalk network the entire length of the north side of West Elk Avenue.

A resolution supporting the grant application failed to get support from the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission during a regular meeting Thursday night. Commissioners declined to move for or against the resolution when it came up on the agenda, thus sending it to the City Council without a recommendation.

Planning Commission Chair Dena Bass questioned the need for the sidewalks, pointing to the Tweetsie Trail on the south side of West Elk Avenue. Bass said construction of sidewalks would take away “prime commercial property” on the north side, but the planning director said that would not be the case. “Everything will be within the existing right of way,” DesGroseillier said.

“I’m just thinking there’s a lot of traffic that flows down through there and how close you’re going to be close to the road,” Bass said.

DesGroseillier said he had received many calls from people complaining about how hard it is to cross the highway to get to the high school, especially from the Overmountain Drive area.

Planning Commissioner James Little said the city plans to extend Overmountain Drive to Sycamore Shoals. “I’m sure that’s going to have sidewalks,” Little said. “So, why spend $1.2 million on something that’s going to be put in anyway?”

According to the Department of Planning and Economic Development, nearly 25,000 vehicles a day travel along that section of West Elk Avenue. From 2019 to 2024, there were 266 crashes along West Elk Avenue, with the majority occurring at the Overmountain Drive-Hudson Drive and Patriot Drive-Bemberg Road intersections. There were five pedestrian-related accidents during that same period.

Other Agenda Items

During Thursday night’s regular meeting, City Council will consider, among other items:

  • A second reading and public hearing on the 2024-25 city budget and 2024 property tax rate;
  • A second reading and public hearing on the 2024-25 city schools budget;
  • A resolution to approve the 2024-2025 Elizabethton Municipal Airport Budget; and
  • A resolution to approve a Community Development Block Grant contract with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for renovations to the Franklin Pool.