Townsend officials support bridge efforts
By Iva Butler | (email@example.com)
Townsend City Commission and Planning Commission unanimously support efforts of Blount County government to get a state grant reinstated for a covered bridge at Kinzel Springs.
Townsend Mayor Michael Talley presented a letter supporting the project to the commission Tuesday night and it was unanimously approved. Planners voiced approval at a meeting last week.
The plan is to convert the old, one-lane Wilson bridge that crosses Little River exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists. It would serve as a gateway enhancement to Townsend.
The 180-foot concrete bridge, which runs from East Lamar Alexander Parkway to Old Walland Highway, was closed after a new two-lane bridge opened in 2009.
“We feel as though the project fits with Townsend’s ‘Heritage Village’ atmosphere for our community,” Talley wrote. “The improvement to the bridge will also adhere with Townsend’s commitment to enhance our community’s pedestrian and biking infrastructure as outlined in the Townsend 10-year land use and transportation plan,” Talley wrote.
“Townsend is a tourist-based economy with approximately 1.5 million visitors passing through our city each year. We feel a project like this will ensure a favorable impact on the tourist economy in our community as more people plan to visit and enjoy the amenities this will bring,” he added.
In 1996, then Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) Commissioner Bruce Saltzman and Gov. Don Sundquist, who is now a resident of Townsend, approved a $160,000 grant for the project contingent on a new bridge being built.
Blount County Commission agreed to fund $40,000 for the project.
Blount County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap received word in spring 2011 from TDOT that the funding had been pulled. “They did not give a reason,” Dunlap said.
Members of a citizens committee has been working on the bridge project.
The Blount County Budget Committee on Tuesday recommended the county set aside about $57,000 to pay for 20 percent of the estimated cost of a long-planned covered bridge at Kinzel Springs in Townsend if grant funding can be secured.
Blount County Commission will consider whether to set aside the $57,000 local share at a 7 p.m. meeting today in Blount County Courthouse.