Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

December 4, 2012

Infrastructure improvements primary focus of downtown improvement


CROSSVILLE — Crossville residents have been hearing about the Downtown Infrastructure Project for several years. While the project will provide a more beautiful downtown area, fully 82 percent of the project cost will go toward necessary infrastructure improvements. The balance of the project, which involves beautification, is an effort to take advantage of the state funding that will result from the downtown having to be torn up and put back together.

One of the key projects will be water infrastructure. The 90-year-old system produces a flow rate of only half the 1,500 gallons per minute recommended for fire protection in a commercial district. This impacts not only the retention of current businesses downtown but also attracting new business, the owners of which may balk at locating in a city unable to provide adequate fire protection. The new system, should it become a reality, would have increased water main size, new service laterals, more fire hydrants and a water system built to modern standards of material and design.

Carla French, owner of The Screen Door on Main Street, points out her own water service has low pressure and the water sometimes is rusty.

The other water problem is the lack of management for storm water, which tends to flood the streets and basements in the Main Street area. There is virtually no existing storm drainage system downtown. The proposed project would result in new catch basins, underground downspout connections for buildings, concrete curbs and gutters and, of course, the storm lines to handle all this water. Anyone who has tried crossing a downtown street during a storm without getting soaked up to their ankles, will appreciate the improvements.

Property owners also report it is difficult, if not impossible, to rent or sell some commercial properties due to the drainage problem.

Larry Doster, whose Crossville Trophy Shop is one of the longest existing businesses downtown, having been there for 30 years, said, “Since I have been downtown, there are two or three mom-and-pop clothing stores that have gone out of business.  I remember a long-gone pasty shop that was across the street.  Gas, water and electrical services have been there for a hundred years.  estaurants and other businesses need up-to-date water.”

Another downtown problem that has been the bane of pedestrians is the uneven pavement and sidewalks. In addition to not being up to TDOT standards, the pavement of differing thickness, poor grading and inadequate drainage makes it less enjoyable to walk around the neighborhood. The project will have full depth pavement removal and replacement, new roadway striping and signage to TDOT standards.

Pedestrians and motorists will also benefit from upgraded street lighting which is currently designed only for highway illumination. New lighting would provide uniform lighting for streets and walkways as well as a greater level of lighting using metal halide or LED sources. The new poles would also be placed at proper intervals based on industry standards and with underground electrical service.

The project would also provide new traffic signals placed on poles with mast arms using money-saving LED signals. Lights would be programmed so that traffic moves more efficiently and the signals would be connected, from intersection to intersection, by underground wiring. Loop detectors would tell the signals when to change and pedestrians would get crossing signals with push button activation.

Pedestrians would also get new sidewalks. Where the current sidewalks are cracked patched and worn and do not meet the ADA barrier free standards, new ones would solve these problems.  Crosswalks would be added at some intersections where they are now missing and pedestrian ramps would improve ADA accessibility.

New underground utilities would not only provide a more pleasing appearance, but proponents say those overhead wires create a hazard for firefighters who have to navigate the lines with ladders and buckets in the event of the fire.  Some of the lines are on wooden poles which, because their placement dates back to times when the streets were narrow and the city so not built up, are actually in the roadway and subject to being struck by vehicles with the resulting injuries and power outages from downed lines. 

Once the infrastructure phase, which represents 82 percent of the budget, is complete, the project would move into the enhancement phase.

Crossville is fortunate to have a viable downtown with government offices, restaurants, shopping, a theater, art galleries, tourist attractions and parks. Aesthetic improvements would enhance the area and most would be funded by private fund-raising efforts and a state grant.

French said, “If we do not make the necessary changes, we will be left behind. We need to meet competition from other communities who are updating their downtowns.”

Once the downtown is being reassembled after the infrastructure improvements, much of what is now missing from downtown will be provided. Trees and landscaping, now in short supply, will be added, along with the necessary irrigation systems. Sidewalks will see native decorative stone. Benches and decorative trash receptacles will appear. There are even plans for a public address/music system.

The estimated cost of this project is about $9.1 million, the bulk of which is provided for through loans, grants and matching funds. Some of the budget has already been expended in preliminary engineering costs. 

Deadlines to start several phases of the project are approaching.  Paving and underground work are to get underway in February with storm drainage to start in March. The enhancements and beautification are scheduled for August in order to receive a state grant of more than one million dollars.