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Commissioners review concept plan for Walnut Street redesign

David Floyd • Aug 12, 2019 at 11:10 PM

Raised, pedestrian-friendly intersections, a desired speed of 15 miles per hour and a setup that puts businesses closer to the roadway.

Those are just a few elements of a concept plan that Johnson City Commissioners reviewed during their agenda review meeting Monday for the long-awaited redevelopment of West Walnut Street.

“We decided some time ago that we wanted to include West Walnut Street as a part of the redevelopment of downtown,” said City Manager Pete Peterson after the presentation. “It’s very important to connect the university with the downtown area and to help revitalize the businesses along West Walnut Street.”

Terry Grubb, the senior transportation manager at LDA Engineering, walked commissioners through an overview of the changes, which included a brief video tour of the proposal for West Walnut and the intersections at State of Franklin Road and University Parkway and West Walnut Street and University Parkway. The city hired LDA Engineering to put together the construction documents for the plan.

The plans include changes to those intersections to help manage traffic congestion, but Grubb said the concept plan also strives to create a safe corridor for pedestrian and bicycle movement from East Tennessee State University to downtown Johnson City.

“The plan is to try to bring forward the concepts that were developed in the master plan for Walnut Street, which included some access management techniques on University Parkway as well as Walnut Street, adding additional capacities to University Parkway where today we have a lot of congestion and make it more of a friendly and inviting community space for not only the existing businesses but future investment,” he said.

The plans also include a median running up University Parkway from State of Franklin to Maple Street, Peterson said.

The city is still in the middle of adjusting the plans with the engineering firm. Peterson hopes to have construction documents ready in April or May so the city can put the construction of the project out for bid and fund it in the fiscal year 2021 budget.

“It’s going to be a slow process up front until we get good solid input from the adjoining property owners and the neighborhood and the citizens and the university,” he said. “We want to make sure we give everyone ample opportunity to give us their viewpoint on it before we really get started with the detailed construction drawings.”

Peterson said the city wants the corridor to feel like Main Street.

“Buildings close to the road, slower traffic, a lot of people walking and creating a sense of community,” Peterson said. “We envision a lot of students out of the university coming down the Walnut Street corridor for shopping and barber shops, laundromats, dining to create more of a neighborhood feel that stretches right on into the existing downtown core area.”

City projects

Commissioners also heard Monday about a downtown water and wastewater system improvement project that will result in the closure of a portion of Market Street for about three months. The project will occur in two phases.

The first phase will be a sewer-rehab project along Buffalo Street from Cherry Street to near the South Roan Street intersection, which will happen from October to December. Traffic will still be allowed through, but Peterson said there will be some lane changes and temporary closures during that process.

Phase two will be a total reconstruction of Market Street from Roan Street to the railroad tracks at Buffalo Street. Crews will be completely replacing a 100-year old water line and rehabilitating a sewer line. The portion of Market Street from Roan Street to Buffalo Street will be completely closed from January to March.

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