(Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
A significant utilities upgrade project in downtown Johnson City will close a portion of a major thoroughfare through late October.
Utilities will be upgraded along the 400 block of South Roan Street, which is between State of Franklin Road and East Main Street, beginning Tuesday and continuing through Oct. 21.
According to Jeff Keeling, director of marketing and community relations for the Washington County Economic Development Council, a combination of public investments like the Founders Park project, the streetscaping of downtown roads and the planned farmers market building, along with private investments like Renasant Bank and Tupelo Honey in the downtown area have hastened the need for water/sewer improvements and improvements to other utilities.
“It’s staying ahead of the game with infrastructure,” Keeling said.
The affected block of Roan will be closed during the construction period, and vehicles detoured in two patterns, depending on direction of travel. Businesses and residences will remain open and accessible along the block during the work.
“We realize the inconvenience this will create for people, but at the same time, we want Johnson Citians to understand how encouraged we are by all of the exciting growth that is occurring downtown,” said Shannon Castillo, the Economic Development Council’s director of redevelopment. “Just in the block where the work is taking place, the last year has seen the construction of a $2 million apartment building and the arrival of a successful small business from another part of the city.”
Keeling referred to the utility project as another piece of the puzzle that will encourage continued development downtown and pre-empt any potential problems that could occur with inadequate utility operations.
“That short-term inconvenience is far outweighed by the convenience of being ready for growth,” he said.
Keeling said when Tupelo Honey opens, the teaching site Northeast State Community College is preparing now in the old Downtown Centre is done and some other projects are finished, the downtown area would be ripe for even more investment.
“The folks at EDC are very appreciative of the folks at Johnson City Public Works for the work they’ve done over the past year,” Keeling said, in reference to the streetscaping that has been installed along Buffalo Street in downtown.
According to a news release from the EDC, private-sector investment in downtown has totaled more than $18 million since mid-2012. Castillo said that type of growth, which is occurring throughout downtown, is one reason the city of Johnson City and other service providers will install upgraded infrastructure in the coming weeks. Additional phases are planned as well, heading in the direction of Buffalo Street.
Detour signs will be posted to guide motorists around the construction. Traffic heading south on Roan Street through downtown will be detoured left onto East Main Street, right after one block onto Colonial Way, right after one block onto State of Franklin and left after one block back onto Roan. Traffic heading north will be detoured left onto State of Franklin, right after two blocks onto Buffalo, and left after three blocks back onto Roan.
Pedestrian access will be maintained, though portions of the sidewalk will be blocked at times during the replacement process.