State Route 126 (Memorial Boulevard)

Sullivan County


The purpose of the proposed project on State Route 126 (Memorial Boulevard) in Sullivan County is to provide a safe, efficient route for local traffic between the City of Kingsport and Interstate 81. The project extends approximately 8.3 miles, from East Center Street in Kingsport to I-81, and includes the following improvements.

  • 4 lanes (divided) from East Center Street to Harbor Chapel
  • 3 lanes, which include two travel lanes and one eastbound truck climbing lane from Harbor Chapel to Old Stage Road
  • 3 lanes from Old Stage Road to Harr Town Road in the vicinity of East Lawn Cemetery and Yancey’s Tavern
  • 2 lanes from Harr Town Road to I-81

Improvements along the western half of the project, which is more commercial and residential, are proposed to improve access management to adjacent businesses and homes and to improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity. The improvements along the eastern half of the project are proposed to complement the rural nature of the area.

Purpose and Need

The safety of the route needs to be improved. Crash rates observed along the entire SR 126 study corridor exceed the statewide average crash rates for similar roadway segments. The needs for improved safety can be summarized as follows:

  • The width of the roadway generally needs to be improved. Most of the existing roadway includes 11-foot wide lanes with narrow shoulders.
  • The width of the shoulders need to be improved. The shoulders along the route are typically no wider than two feet and often not paved. The narrow shoulders, along with other existing geometric deficiencies, contribute to the high crash rates and create a less than desirable route for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • The geometry of the roadway needs to be improved. Numerous horizontal and vertical curves along the route are inadequate for the posted speed limit.
  • Improved access management is needed along the commercial areas of the route. The public cited access onto SR 126 as a major problem. Difficulty entering or exiting business parking lots was identified as a significant problem because of uncontrolled access to businesses along the roadway. Many of the access points are located near or within substandard curves or hills that limit sight distance for drivers attempting to turn in or out of the businesses.
  • Improved response time for emergency vehicles is needed. With improvements, emergency vehicles would be able to respond more efficiently to emergencies within and near the project corridor. Wider shoulders would enable motorists to pull over and allow the emergency vehicles to pass through to their intended destinations. Current conditions along SR 126 do not feature many areas for vehicles to pull over.
  • Improved access for mail delivery is needed. Current geometric conditions along SR 126 create bottlenecks during mail delivery. Wider shoulders would enable delivery vehicles to depart the travel lane and motorists pass more safely. Improved access for school busses is needed. Current geometric conditions along SR 126 make it difficult for school busses to make turns. Wider paved roadway widths would improve accessibility for the school busses along the corridor.
  • Improved traffic operations are needed along the route. This will be the result of the improvements described above, which will result in better traffic flow.

Proposed Design Alternatives

Several design alternatives were considered in an effort to meet the purpose and need of the SR 126 improvement project. The project was the initial Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) project for Tennessee, in which improvements are designed to be sensitive to the context of the different land uses along the corridor. TDOT consulted with local, state and federal officials and agencies, identified environmentally sensitive areas and held several public involvement meetings regarding the corridor project. Initially, two build alternative options, Alternatives A and B, and the No-Build Alternative option were presented in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Since publication of the DEIS, the travel model used for this project was updated and updated traffic information has been made available. With that information, TDOT developed an additional alternative option for consideration, referred to as Modified Alternative B. This alternative was selected because it improves safety while minimizing the impacts to the environment and the community. It does not take graves from East Lawn Cemetery or present an adverse effect to Yancey’s Tavern, and it considerably lowers the number of residential and business displacements. (To view a copy of the DEIS and all proposed alternatives, visit the Public Involvement section for this project.)