Council backs seeking grant for West Elk Avenue pedestrian safety project

Published 10:25 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler

Star Correspondent

An Elizabethton resident spoke strongly in favor of the City Council supporting a multimodal grant application to extend sidewalks along a stretch of West Elk Avenue and council members followed suit with unanimous approval.

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“Sidewalks are expensive,” Pamela Egeler said during the public comment period. “If they were not so expensive, we certainly would have more of them in our town.”

If the application is successful, funds from the Tennessee Department of Transportation multimodal access grant would be used to construct nearly 4,000 feet of “missing link” sidewalks on West 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.

A state grant of $1,187,500 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.

“Some people say that the Tweetsie Trail serves as our sidewalks on West Elk Avenue,” Egeler said. “Thank goodness for the Tweetsie Trail, or we would really be hurting for pedestrian options on that portion of West Elk Avenue. As much as I enjoy the Tweetsie Trail, it is a rails-to-trails recreation endeavor. It was not designed to the same standards as the municipal sidewalk, and it was not intended to take the place of a properly designed sidewalk.”

Planning Director Rich DesGroseillier believes the project will provide for safer pedestrian traffic movement along the north side of West Elk Avenue by creating safer places to cross. He has said the goal would be to have a sidewalk network the entire length of the north side of West Elk Avenue.

The resolution failed to gain support from the Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission during a regular meeting on June 6. 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.

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.


NW0616 Council backs pedestrian safety project