By Glenn Berry, Johnson City MTPO Coordinator
On Monday, April 24, 2017, the new Veterans Affairs Access Road was dedicated and officially opened to the public. Please see the gallery below for photos from the dedication ceremony. Also, please read below more information about the history of the project.
Purpose and Need
The Veterans Affairs access road is a transportation project that not only improves access to the James H. Quillen Veterans Affairs Medical Center, but the entire Mountain Home Branch of the Veterans Affairs Administration. It provides direct access to U.S. 11E / State Route (SR) 34, locally known as West Market Street. Previous access to the Mountain Home campus was either through neighborhood roads on the north, SR 381 (State of Franklin Road) at the south entrance – which also crosses Norfolk Southern’s Crescent Corridor mainline – or from State of Franklin on the west entrance via Vonderfecht Way, which is a private road. These access points were not designed to accommodate today’s traffic and demand generated by Mountain Home Branch, causing congestion and bottlenecks at peak traffic periods to this essential facility.
The Mountain Home Branch provides medical services to 170,000 veterans living in a 41-county area of Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. The facility averages 600,000 outpatient/primary care visits annually. Over 2,000 people are employed at this campus, which is also the location of the Mountain Home National Cemetery and East Tennessee State University Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy, and Forensics. Mountain Home Branch is a major economic generator, providing a vital service to our veterans and employment for our region.
Retired Congressman Bill Jenkins acquired the initial funding ($852,000 at 100% federal grant) for this project in 2003 under the Transportation, Community and System Preservation program. Additional funds in the amount of $1,124,874 (80% federal 20% local match) were received for the project through a “High Priority Project” grant from the federal government approved in 2005; however, due to budgetary restrictions at the federal level during this time, the funds only accrued at 20% every five years, with the funds only being available for expenditure in 2010. The project was initially managed by the Tennessee Department of Transportation; however, due to their back log of projects, they turned it over to the City of Johnson City to manage in 2012. After review of the project by the City, additional federal funds were pursued to complete construction, limiting the impact on the local budget.
On August 1, 2014 the Eastern Lands Division of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), notified the City of Johnson City they had been selected to receive grant funding in the amount of $720,000 (80% federal 20% local match) from the Federal Lands Access Program for the Mountain Home Veterans Affairs Hospital Connector Project. The remaining project cost of approximately $124,000 was covered through Federal Highway Administration’s Surface Transportation Block Grant program with 20 percent local match.
Below is a breakdown of the costs for the project provided by the Public Works Department.
$296,000 TDOT Design
$69,400 Design (Mattern and Craig)
$853,982 Right-of-way acquisition
$130,000 Construction Engineering Services (S&ME Inc.)
$1,471,000 Construction (Summers-Taylor Inc.)
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