Editorial: Another stretch of useless sidewalk

Editorial Board • Jan 13, 2020 at 10:00 PM

The primary purpose of sidewalks is public safety. They provide a pedestrian path that separates people from traffic.

Sidewalks are necessary in downtown commercial areas where there is little parking, providing continuous pedestrian paths via controlled intersections. But when a sidewalk doesn’t connect to other sidewalks so that pedestrians can reach a particular location without walking in a roadway, they serve little purpose. Rather than enhance safety, a sidewalk diminishes it when built along a street where every business has a parking lot and where pedestrians are in danger every time they step off concrete and onto pavement as vehicles enter and exit those lots.

Nonetheless, Kingsport is applying for a state grant to build 1,500 feet of sidewalk along Fort Henry Drive in the busiest section of Colonial Heights, a waste of $680,000 in state money and the city’s $35,800 in matching funds.

The proposed sidewalk would be along the northeast side of Fort Henry Drive between Colonial Heights Road and Lakecrest Drive. There are no sidewalks leading to where it would be located and none from where it would end. Only one street, Hillandale Drive, enters that stretch of highway from a neighborhood, but Hillandale has no sidewalks. And so, to access this proposed length of sidewalk, you would have to drive to it. And when you reached it, you would be at risk from no less than 20 turnoffs into the various businesses along its length.

On the other side of Fort Henry Drive are residences bordering the street in some areas and large residential sections behind the various retail establishments. Two side streets, Vendover Drive and Wilmont Drive, connect to Fort Henry, but neither has sidewalks. A resident who might wish to walk to the post office on the other side of Fort Henry must walk in the roadway until he reaches it. Then, he needs a crossing point. There is but one set of traffic lights the length of the proposed sidewalk where a pedestrian crossing could be located, but to get to it, the pedestrian will have to walk in the roadway of Fort Henry, one of the busiest streets in Kingsport.

If the city gets this grant it will build another stretch of useless sidewalk, just as it plans along more than two miles of Stone Drive, a highway scary even to drive on much less walk along. That project will cost $1.6 million in state dollars and $83,000 in city money for a sidewalk along the south side of Stone from John B. Dennis to Lynn Garden Drive. Work on the sidewalk to nowhere begins this year.

Kingsport needs sidewalks. There are many neighborhoods where they don’t exist, forcing folks to walk in the road. But as with the heart of Colonial Heights, few walk along Stone Drive because every business has parking — there are some 70 turnoffs from Stone into those lots, putting pedestrians at risk when they cross them.

The city isn’t spending $120,000 in local tax dollars because there’s a hue and cry for sidewalks at these two locations. It’s leveraging local money for obtain state grants that would otherwise go elsewhere.

And that’s where they need to go.