Johnson City leaders rethinking traffic plans for W Walnut redevelopment

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- Johnson City’s plan calls for a $25 million facelift on W Walnut Street. It’s an investment they hope will attract more businesses and open up access for pedestrians.

Neighbors worry that will mean more traffic. Thursday night, they got a look at the city’s plan to deal with that at a public hearing at City Hall.

“It’s a huge investment for the community- you’re talking $25 million so we want to try to get it right on the front end,” said Public Works Director Phil Pindzola.

Thursday’s meeting was a response to overwhelming negative feedback to the city’s initial traffic plan.

Their big concern – if transforming West Walnut Street will divert traffic into the historic Tree Streets Neighborhood nearby.

“I am concerned about the traffic increase on W Maple right now, especially without a speed barrier. We see a lot of people even right now coming through there and I have two young kids,” said W Maple Street resident Ryan Chupa.

City staff developed four different plans – and asked the public to give input.

“They wanted more information as to the impact on Maple street,” said Pindzola. “We weren’t ready to communicate the absolute impact so this gave us time to reassess.”

One plan calls for no changes to the busy intersection where West Walnut meets University Parkway near ETSU.

The other three plans are variations on how to control traffic through the intersection…. with one option to close it altogether.

People who came to the public hearing were given cards and asked to vote for their favorite plan.

“The commission is a strong believer in residents inputting into the decision-making process before they make a decision so we will communicate the outcome of this meeting and the survey taken,” Pindzola says.

That listening ear – seemed to have a big impact. While people weren’t happy at the first public hearing – Thursday there was a different mood.

“The city really proved that they listened to the neighbor’s concerns, took them seriously and really did their best to address them,” said long-time W Maple St. resident, Gwen Hunter. “No matter what we do, it’s going to impact everybody a little bit.”

Those attending the meeting were able to fill out surveys with different plan options for traffic management. Pindzola says the city commission will take public opinion into consideration when making the final plan.

If you weren’t able to attend the meeting and would like to provide feedback, Pindzola asks that you call his office at 423-434-6080.

The city hopes to put the first phase of redevelopment here out to bid sometime this fall.

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