Illuminating Our Communities: Gresham Smith Utility Services Group

Josh Blevins, P.E.

Josh Blevins, P.E.

Effective lighting is critical for roadways, sidewalks, greenways, parking lots, pedestrian bridges and more. Gresham Smith’s Utility Services group specializes in the application of all aspects of roadway and pedestrian lighting—from small, pedestrian-scale sidewalk lighting upgrades to intersection and roundabout lighting improvements to complex interstate and bridge lighting infrastructure and foundation design.

In this blog, I take a look at three recent projects our Utility Services group has lent its lighting expertise to—projects that have transformed open public spaces into well-lit, safer and more distinctive experiences that are revitalizing communities.

LeConte Event Center at Pigeon Forge – Parking Lot & Pedestrian Bridge

Pigeon Forge isn’t just famous for Dollywood! At the heart of this beautiful mountain town in East Tennessee lies LeConte Event Center—a stunning 232,000-square-foot meeting and event facility that attracts large assembly events, trade shows and expositions, as well as other competitions and special events.

Since the center opened in October 2013, it’s surpassed expectations and maintained an almost at-capacity calendar of bookings. This success, along with the success of The Island—a nearby retail and entertainment complex that also depends on the City’s municipal parking lot for its patrons—created an acute need for additional public parking.

With one of its biggest events on the horizon, the City of Pigeon Forge hired Gresham Smith to design a new 2,000-space permeable parking lot as well as a 600-foot pedestrian bridge that would connect to the parking area. The project was the recipient of an ACEC Engineering Excellence Award in the Transportation category in 2021. The permeable-paver parking lot represents the largest of its kind east of the Mississippi River and the second-largest paver project in the United States.

All the Bright Moves

Our Utility Services group provided lighting services for the new 2,000-space parking lot as well as the adjoining pedestrian bridge that provides new access to the LeConte Event Center for patrons and a large number of out-of-town visitors.

One of the main challenges with providing lighting for the parking lot was the sheer size of the space. Working with the local utility to meet their needs as well as our client’s needs also presented its fair share of challenges. Our team successfully met those head-on, with the end result being the illumination of a previously unlit 14-acre space that improves safety and visibility for both pedestrians and motorists.

Our Utility Services group also provided ornamental lighting along the 600-foot pedestrian bridge that offers a unique ambiance at night and is clearly visible to motorists from the roadway that runs directly beneath the new overpass. Completed in December 2020, the new parking lot and pedestrian bridge not only elevate and illuminate the patron and visitor experience, but also create a noteworthy landmark for both the LeConte Event Center and the local community.

Marconi Boulevard

The City of Alcoa’s planned development of Springbrook Farm City Center, along with the growing volume of traffic in the area due to schools and residential neighborhoods, called for a new roadway to support multimodal accessibility. Gresham Smith worked to accommodate the environmental concerns of the former aluminum plant site and maximize the mixed-use developments with meaningful public spaces and transportation options.

The Marconi Boulevard project includes a roundabout design, civic amenities, the rehabilitation of three historic railroad bridges, one new bridge, and stormwater design. Our Utility Services group provided decorative LED street and pedestrian lighting for the new divided roadway, which features sidewalks on both sides of Marconi Boulevard that connect the community to the education campus of Alcoa.

In keeping with the aesthetic context of the planned Springbrook Farm City Center, the lighting design allows for the addition of Christmas lights during the holiday season as well as banners for seasonal events such as the Fourth of July. To meet the demands of the new roadway, higher-wattage decorative lighting was incorporated into the four-legged roundabout design.

From Rails to Trails

As part of the rails-to-trails approach, we added energy-efficient greenway lighting to the new pedestrian bridge as well as the historic railroad bridges that were reimagined as multiuse paths that connect to the Alcoa-Maryville trail network.  Recipient of an Honor Award at ACEC Tennessee’s 2022 Engineering Excellence awards, the Marconi Boulevard project serves as an integral piece of infrastructure that supports the vision of a connected, sustainable city.

a close up of a street light in Morristown

Morristown Skymart Lighting Upgrade

In 1967, the City of Morristown in Tennessee completed the construction of an elevated sidewalk system along the Main Street corridor dubbed the SkyMart. Since then, businesses have come and gone, but the elevated sidewalk has remained a one-of-a-kind downtown Landmark. And, fun fact, it’s the only remaining overhead sidewalk system in the United States!

More than half a century ago, the underside of the SkyMart was completed with all electrical facilities installed within an open-access cable tray system beneath the elevated sidewalk. The project also included high-pressure sodium lighting that was affixed to the elevated sidewalk, as well as lower sidewalk lighting.

Over the years, downtown Morristown began to experience issues with pigeons nesting within the cable trays where the power conduits ran. This not only caused electrical disturbances, but also potential health risks to the public. Our Utility Services group partnered with Massey Electric Company to develop a plan to address the “nesting” problem, as well as upgrade the lighting and overall appeal of the downtown elevated sidewalk system.

Love at First Light

As part of the upgrade, we replaced the existing high-pressure sodium lights with decorative LED fixtures. For the lower sidewalk, lay-in LED lighting was incorporated into a new, enclosed PVC ceiling tile system that replaced the existing open-access cable tray system. Additionally, a new amplified speaker system was installed to replace the antiqued system that was not being utilized.

Completed in 2017, the enclosed lay-in ceiling has eliminated the nesting issues along the entire length of the project, resulting in a clean sidewalk where seasonal music can be enjoyed under enhanced lighting. The increased number of lights that were installed in the lower sidewalk, in addition to the reflective properties of the lay-in ceiling tiles, has increased the overall coverage of the lighting along Main Street, which the City of Morristown reports has reduced safety concerns for pedestrians in the area. Since the project’s completion, downtown Morristown has experienced an increase in vendors and businesses as well as local events—from arts and crafts festivals to craft beer festivals.

Our Utility Services group is proud to deliver lighting design solutions that are not only providing local communities with a greater sense of security and safety, but are also helping enhance the human experience by connecting residents with a new and distinctive sense of place.