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By TERRI LIKENS
Kingston’s plan to draw much-needed retail business to the city’s Gallaher Road corridor took what Mayor Troy Beets called “a kick in the mouth” recently.
For years, the city has been taking steps to draw “upscale retail” businesses to the corridor.
It has made zoning changes, annexed parcels and extended water and sewer lines.
The hitch came with one of the last parts of the plan — lighting the interchange at Interstate 40.
Through no fault of its own, the city lost a substantial federal grant to pay for most of the estimated $520,000 cost to design and install the lighting.
“The federal part of this has been, for lack of a better word, rescinded,” Beets said at a recent city council meeting.
City Manager Jim Pinkerton recently explained it in more detail.
He said the project was included in a five-year Federal Highway Act bill that expired recently.
When the bill expired, unspent funds died with it.
City officials had no control over the pace of the project, nor did they know of language in the Federal Highway Act bill that allowed the money to be taken back.
In November 2007, they had signed a contract with Tennessee Department of Transportation officials for the design and construction of the interchange.
Gallaher Road is part of the Oak Ridge Turnpike, and the five-lane section in Kingston carries around 12,000 vehicles a day, Pinkerton said.
Interstate 40 through the area carries about 40,000 vehicles a day.
All of those motorists are potential customers.
“If you’re going to have a successful interchange development, one of the things you should have is a lighted interchange,” Pinkerton said.
The city had a 10-percent share in the project and was just waiting for the state to start.
“It was completely in the hands of TDOT,” Pinkerton said.
State officials had said bids for the project would be let in January of this year, then kept backing it up — first to spring, then to summer.
The last Kingston had heard, the bids were to be let this month.
Instead, they got that “kick in the mouth” — word that the funding had been pulled when the Federal Highway Act bill expired Sept. 30.
“We’ve kind of hung our hats on developing Gallaher Road, and a big piece of developing that is lighting that interchange,” Beets said when explaining the situation at the council meeting. “We’re not taking this laying down.”
Pinkerton said TDOT officials are working hard to try to revive the project, and letters have been written to a variety of officials.
“I’m optimist that we can get this back,” Pinkerton said.