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Does Kingsport spend enough on repaving?

Editorial Board • Sep 18, 2018 at 9:30 PM

Kingsport has just under 500 miles of concrete and asphalt streets. Last year the city embarked on a program of sustainable paving for every mile of street every 20 to 25 years rather than the previous 50 to 55 years.

Recent projects include repaving parts of West Center, Ridgefields, Rivermont, Fiddler’s Way and Barnett Drive, and work is underway in the Lynn Garden neighborhood.

The cost for the program is about $2 million a year, and to sustain it, the city is tapping into the millions of dollars it receives through what is in effect a new city tax, the franchise agreement with Appalachian Electric Power.

But is it enough? Should the city add money to its annual bond issue or in some other way support additional paving and street repair?

This year’s annual bond includes $3.7 million for Justice Center renovations and the new City Hall at what is now the Regions Bank downtown, $2.3 million for a new outdoor pool at the Kingsport Aquatic Center, $2 million in water treatment plant upgrades, $1.4 million for water line upgrades, $1 million for school facilities maintenance, $300,000 for Bays Mountain Nature Center improvements, $270,000 for new Bays Mountain animal habitats, $265,000 for improvements to the planetarium at Bays Mountain, and $225,000 for library improvements.

These are all needed projects. But there’s not a dime in the bond issue for street repaving.

An analysis of streets two years ago found 58 percent in fair or better condition but 42 percent in poor or worse condition, and that doesn’t just include paving. For instance, in the West View Park neighborhood, parts of Sharondale Avenue are collapsing, and some streets like Mimosa are so narrow that meeting a school bus means you’re driving on grass.

No doubt there are other streets throughout the city in even worse condition. Is yours one of them?

In years past, Kingsport simply did not have a dedicated funding source for street repair, and paving was “usually done with whatever we scraped together at the end of the year,” said City Manager Jeff Fleming.

The city contracted to conduct a roadway condition assessment where a specialized vehicle was driven throughout the city, shooting radar down on the street and assessing its condition and revealing cracks. The equipment basically checked all of Kingsport’s roads and ranked them based on condition.

According to the analysis, 21 percent of Kingsport’s roads were in good condition, 18 percent satisfactory and 18.5 percent fair. Just over 20 percent are in poor condition, 15 percent very poor and 6 percent in serious condition.

The sustainable paving program is a great start to repairing city streets. But should it be expanded? We think so, and the analysis of our street conditions agrees.

Let us know your thoughts at letters@timesnews.net.

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