The smell of fresh asphalt could not have been more welcome in Jonesborough Tuesday as the county highway department began paving the way for the streetscape improvement project to wrap up in the downtown business district.
With fair weather in the forecast and everyone in town anxious to see the new pavement put down, Main Street is expected to be sporting its new coat of pavement from First Avenue to Boone Street as early as this afternoon, and just in the nick of time for next weekend’s storytelling festival.
“It’s really going to look a whole lot different down there,” Town Operations Manager Craig Ford said Tuesday morning as the asphalt trucks rolled on First Avenue and, on the other end of town, the first of the festival tents began going up.
“Yes, this will get us out of what they’ve been calling the central business district,” Ford said. And in a nod to the inconvenience and loss of business downtown merchants have endured for most of this year, he added, “As many people as I’ve been told have said they want me out of there, no one wants me out of there as much I want me out of there.”
The paving began Tuesday morning and by lunch time the south end of First Avenue and access road on the west side of the courthouse were newly in the black. And as the county asphalt crews moved to the east side of the courthouse and on to Fox Street Tuesday afternoon, town street workers lifted manholes on Main Street in preparation for much anticipated blacktop expected to go down today.
“The people from Mountain City (skilled prison work crews) really helped us,” Ford said. “We would have never gotten as far as we have without them.”
While work on the new brick walks along West Main and the side streets and alleyways leading into downtown is not expected to wrap up until December, the construction will be halted for Jonesborough’s 40th annual storytelling festival set to run Friday through Sunday, Oct. 5, 6 and 7.
“It’ll be beautiful and all neat and clean and ready for next week,’’ a very pleased Susan O’Connor, director of programs for the International Storytelling Center, said.
Weekly updates on the progress of the downtown improvements will continue to be posted on the town website at www.jonesboroughtn.org.