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City doesn't give concrete answer to neighborhood road problem

March 28th, 2014 9:32 am by Tony Casey

City doesn't give concrete answer to neighborhood road problem

Killing two birds with one stone might apply well to the Gump Addition neighborhood’s most recent issue, but this time it doesn’t involve Starlings.

Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola addressed a group of a few dozen concerned citizens from the neighborhood to discuss traffic issues that are exacerbating the condition of Hillrise Boulevard, which runs directly through the neighborhood and is in poor standing compared to the other concrete-paved streets. He spoke at a workshop called together by the city to receive feedback from those who live in the neighborhood.

“We want a bigger bang for the dollars spent,” Pindzola said.

He got down to business in trying to get the members of the neighborhood to identify the problems and issues before moving on to solutions. Hillrise Boulevard, Pindzola said, is an anomaly compared to the other streets in the Gump because of its high traffic, logging 2,000-3,000 vehicle passes per day, and amount of water runoff that channels down the road. The combination of the traffic and water has beat up the condition of the pavement much worse than other sections of the neighborhood.

Having tried to fix Hillrise over the course of decades in Johnson City, Pindzola is dead set on paving over the beat-up concrete with asphalt in the coming weeks. Gump resident Mary Lou Gammo disagreed with Pindzola’s decision to put asphalt atop concrete, saying she’s seen it tried several times over her years living there.

“That’s not good. That’s not good at all,” Gammo said. “It’s ignorant to use asphalt as opposed to concrete. I’ve seen it done and it just floats away.”

City commissioner Clayton Stout politely told Gammo that they just don’t have the money to use concrete and make it effective in the long term, the way other concrete-paved streets have survived. The city working with a limited amount of money was a trend with the discussion. Pindzola said when certain changes had hit other neighborhoods, the communities there had paid for the changes in total themselves.

“We either live with what we’ve got or we infuse money into the system,” he said.

Pindzola said he and his team of traffic engineers, Allan Cantrell and Anthony Todd, have crunched numbers on stripping back the concrete and starting fresh and a project like that would cost the city over a million dollars, which is more than Pindzola thinks should be spent on one single street in the city. Like Stout, Pindzola said the money just isn’t there for things like this, and Johnson City has been on a flat revenue stream for about five years and other money would need to be raised to tackle something of this magnitude.

Gammo and others in attendance mentioned the running water’s ability to carry away speed humps that had been used to deter out-of-area vehicles from using the Gump as a time-saving cut-through, and other options should be looked at.

Pindzola agreed with the concerns to tackle the biggest issues all at once, suggesting that when his crews repave over the next few weeks, a coalition of members from the Gump decide how they want to tackle the neighborhood’s problems, perhaps with rumble strips over the new pavement or with narrowed streets, redirected traffic or bigger roundabouts.

All these options, Pindzola said, could be used to fix the problems with people speeding through their neighborhood. To look at some bigger issues, Pindzola asked for the help of those in attendance to give their names and addresses and the information of their neighbors who didn’t attend, to share if they’ve had issues with water coming into their homes so he could look at the potential bigger runoff-water issues in the Gump.

The paving will come soon, he said, has already been budgeted, and will cost around $120,000-$150,000. It should last for about 10 years, but, given the condition of Hillrise Boulevard, might split in parts with cracks, which is to be expected, Pindzola said.

Moving forward, city public works crews want to perform studies to determine traffic flows through the areas workshop attendees said were the most traveled by people not from the Gump, and then return to meet with Gump committee members to see what kind of solutions can be produced with the resources available.

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