Planners petition state for new connector bridge access

Photo by Dave Boyd
City planners heard an update on the Murray Hills subdivision at Tuesday night's planning commission meeting.
By Thomas Wilson

   The Elizabethton Regional Planning Commission wants a bridge -- specifically, a bridge connecting the Northern Connector five-lane highway to the Cherokee Industrial Park to beef up economic development and divert fast-moving traffic back to the city's business district instead of around it.
   "They will pass us at 65 miles per hour unless we've got a cross over," said Haynes Elliott, chairman of the commission.
   At Tuesday's commission meeting, the commission voted 6-0 with Howard Matherly absent to approve a resolution requesting the Tennessee Department of Transportation to construct an additional bridge linking the Northern Connector to the cul-de-sac of Cherokee Park Drive. The bridge would enter the Cherokee Industrial Park near the former North American Rayon Corp. water filtration plant.
   "The proposal is to build another road to the new Wal-Mart site, extend Tony Fuller Drive back to the cul-de-sac into Wal-Mart, and continue until you get to Sycamore Shoals State Park," said David Ornduff, director of planning and development for the city.
   The $28 million connector project plan begins at State Route 67 (Elk Avenue) west of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2166, moves north across the Watauga River then runs east, linking up with the U.S. Highway 19E and Highway 91 interchange. The section will include four traffic lanes and a continuous center lane. The entire length of the project is an estimated 3.9 miles.
   The project includes replacement of the Bristol Bridge on Lynn Avenue. Costs for right-of-way acquisitions are projected at $6.5 million with $1.6 million budgeted for preliminary engineering. The most recent estimated construction costs are $18.5 million.
   Stan Harris of the state Regional Planning Office recommended the commission also send the letter to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to advise them of the bridge's economic impact.
   "We've got three shopping centers, a super Wal-Mart and other things in the mill," said Elliott of the bridge location. Elliott said the existing Cherokee Park Drive would probably not require expansion to a four-lane road if the bridge was built.
   The commission also voted 6-0 to approve a request from Randy Crowe of Riverside Drive to close a street right-of-way between Sycamore St. and Riverside Drive. The property owner had constructed a portable carport and paved a portion of the right-of-way.
   "I don't know how it was permitted to be built on the right-of-way," Ornduff said. He added that the public works department confirmed no underground utilities were present on the approximately 50' right-of-way.
   Commissioners Nancy Alsup and Jack Cole questioned the reason of abandoning the right-of-way and how the owner paved it. Ornduff advised the commission that if the city needed to lay utility lines in the future, the right-of-way could revert back to city control.
   "They are taking a risk in paving it and opening it up," said Ornduff.
   In other business, planners heard an update about the Murray Hill Subdivision development on Dugger Lane. Seven lots in the subdivision have been approved by city planners. Property owner Carmon Dugger said he was working with the planning department to get the subdivision's final three lots approved. Ornduff said the city had requested a manhole covering accessing utilities to the subdivision be raised for better access.
   The commission also voted 6-0 to re-elect Haynes Elliott to the chairman's post of the commission.