|Shared path coming?
Loudon County could soon get a shared-use path for biking and walking along the new U.S. Highway 321 bridge if Loudon County Commission and Lenoir City Council agree in principle to sign a license agreement with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said a path would stretch from Highway 11 to Highway 444 on both sides of the bridge, with a crosswalk added at the end to allow pedestrian access to the canal parking lot.
The walkway not located on bridges will be 10 feet wide. A 5-foot sidewalk will be available on the railroad and river bridges leading to Tellico Parkway, and bike lanes will provided next to the bridge walkways. Nagi said work will cost $650,000.
“This path will be added to the current project and will be completed as part of the project,” Nagi said in an email correspondence. “Currently, the contractor shows all work on the project being complete by the spring of 2018 per their schedule. ... The entire path will be for walkers and bicyclists.
There won’t be any designated lanes on it. However, there will also be a designated bike lane on both sides of U.S. 321 that will be at least 5 (feet) wide.”
Maintenance costs will be shared between both entities. The city’s coverage will span from the Highway 321 and Highway 11 intersection to the point of the river bridge, while the county’s portion will cover the bridge to Highway 444 leading into Tellico Village.
Officials believe the maintenance costs should be minimal, but estimates could not be given by either governmental entity by News-Herald presstime.
“I think there’s going to be very little maintenance cost, especially early on,” Steve Harrelson, commission chairman, said. “When you start maintaining at the river there’s not going to be any grass or weed issues through that area. I think on down the line as far as just spraying weed killer on the fenced roads or things of that nature will be our only cost, which is very minimal.”
Lenoir City Council on Monday approved moving forward with an agreement with a 6-0 vote. Loudon County Commission is expected to vote at its Tuesday meeting.
The agreement will be for 25 years, which Nagi said is TDOT’s “typical” maintenance contract.
“There’ll be a little bit of talk and discussion about the maintenance cost and, of course, if there’s vehicle accidents or any damage to the guardrail or fencing by vehicle accidents. But as was discussed the other night most of the time you can get reimbursed from those maintenance costs through insurance claims and so forth,” Harrelson said. “I don’t think it’ll be a big issue. TDOT’s showing a lot of good faith by stepping up and adding this addition to the bridge, which is probably a $650,000 addition to the bridge.
“So if they’re stepping up to the plate and doing their part to provide an asset to Loudon County, I don’t think there will be an issue with Loudon County passing it,” he added.
Officials say moving forward with the shared-use path is a good compromise since the J. Carmichael Greer Bridge could not be saved for pedestrian use.
“I think that it gives just another opportunity for outdoor recreation, for biking and walking, and it does in some way preserve that million dollar view that we all think about because it’s still beautiful,” Amber Scott, Lenoir City administrator, said. “It’s still a beautiful view, and I think what they’re talking about doing with the ... park I think is an even greater addition. So I think all these things will play in well together.”