A five-lane bridge and additional roadwork linking North State of Franklin Road northwest to Boones Creek Road is back on the table.
The plan first appeared five years ago in the form of a federal appropriation aimed at channeling traffic to a growing part of the city and county. That potential has not faded. Instead, the project — which would cost an estimated $15 million to $17 million when fully complete — is being resurrected.
When finished, it not only will bypass what many know as the “tunnel” on Mountain View Road, it also will become an integral artery to and from commercial areas and subdivisions as well as offering opportunities for economic growth.
The new route would begin in the general vicinity of Lowe’s off State of Franklin, hooking up with Mountain View. It then would tie in to Knob Creek Road and extend to Boones Creek Road.
On Wednesday, the Washington County Budget Committee revisited the matter, voting to recommend to the County Commission that Johnson City manage the project.
County Attorney John Rambo said there is roughly $3 million on hand which filtered down from the federal to the state level. Both the city and county are responsible for a 20-percent match, which they plan to split.
“The county committed to this in 2008,” said County Mayor Dan Eldridge. When we committed to it, it was a $5 million project. Still, this has the potential to really help economic development.”
The committee voted to recommend to the County Commission that they allow Johnson City to relieve the Tennessee Department of Transportation from it managerial role and place that responsibility with the city — an issue the City Commission will take up in June.
“The bridge alone has been estimated at between $8 million to $10 million,” said Phil Pindzola, Johnson City Public Works Department director. “That tunnel can’t handle any more traffic. We would start the project coming off State of Franklin, taking it to Mountain View. Eventually, it would go all the way to Boones Creek Road.”
Pindzola said $1.2 million each year would be allocated for the first phase of the project from Surface Transportation Funds through the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization.
“We’ll have to go find the money to do the rest of the project,” he said. “All that’s being done right now is securing the administrative part of this, but we do have about $3 million. The next phase would be to start acquiring right-of-way.”
The local engineering firm Tysinger, Hampton and Partners has produced preliminary schematics.
Meanwhile, Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes was forced again on Wednesday to tell Budget Committee members what he’s been reporting each year now since the economy went bust.
He was not smiling.
“We’re looking at being $3.5 million out of balance,” he said. “As of this date, we’re $693,000 short of our estimate for revenues from sales tax. Not counting the rest of this fiscal year, that number will be more than $700,000.”
He also said there is basically “no way” the school system — which at present has a $2.1 million fund balance — can cut expenditures this year to make up the expected loss. That amount is just slightly above the state mandate.
“We’re going to end up taking this out of fund balance,” said County Commissioner and committee member Mitch Meredith. “We’re making adjustments on the revenue side, I just don’t know why we’re not seeing any changes on the expenditure side. I’d like to know what the school system plans to do?”
Dykes said there already are expenditures cut from the coming year’s budget, including a testing coordinator, a driver’s education instructor at Daniel Boone High School and system-wide expenses for summer school.
“We’ve not expanded maintenance, travel, technology and textbooks, and we continue to be conservative with our expenditures and hopeful we won’t have to take that much from our fund balance. Most of these issues are due to inflation. The only recourse we have is to cut services.”
Dykes also made a formal request that the county reimburse the school system for capital purchases, such as buses and other vehicles, and roofing.
County Mayor Dan Eldridge said the county cannot use capital outlay notes to help pay for these needs at this point. The committee asked Dykes to return next month after meeting with Board of Education members and coming up with a prioritized list of needs.
Finally, Administrator of Elections Maybell Stewart informed the committee that the unofficial cost for Johnson City’s April 23 municipal election was $74,000. The city, which is picking up the tab, budgeted $75,000 for the election.