Homeowners want Jonesborough to BYPASS THE BYPASS
By Kristen Swing
The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, at their May meeting, approved a swap with landowner Brian King for a 75-foot right-of-way through The Meadows Subdivision in exchange for the extension of water and sewer services to several as-of-yet undeveloped lots. The land would serve as an access point for the bypass, a road that could be needed years from now to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 11E. The town has already garnered the other access point for the bypass on Boones Creek Road.
“All we’re trying to do is secure a corridor where it could happen sometime in the future,” said Town Administrator Bob Browning at the BMA meeting on July 9. “All we’ve done in this negotiation is get a little more land. We have a responsibility to look toward the future.”
According to Browning, a transportation study completed some time ago in Jonesborough recommended leaders look at alternate routes to get to Boones Creek Road from the west side of town on Highway 11E. Currently, an estimated 30,000 vehicles per day pass through Jonesborough on Highway 11E, Browning noted. That, he added, is a higher volume of traffic than on North Roan Street in front of the mall in Johnson City.
“We’re at a C level headed toward a D, and F is the worst. Within 10 years, the projections of traffic flows on 11E are going to be at that level,” Browning said. “If we don’t do something, I can guarantee you everyone is going to be complaining about trying to get on 11E.”
Regardless, town leaders emphasized that the bypass is not a done deal.
“There is no planned bypass at this point. We have engaged in a little forward thinking and have preserved an endpoint at either end of a bypass that may not even happen,” Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said. “We’re thinking about 20, 30, 40 years down the road, if somebody wants to do a bypass, where would the natural entrance and exit points be? It will probably not be in our lifetimes that this road would be constructed.”
That information appeared to do little to alleviate the concerns of several residents of The Meadows Subdivision who turned out at last week’s meeting to voice their opposition to the future bypass.
“Once plans come out that have proposed highways on them, all of the sudden your property values drop,” said Lee Ketner, who bought his home on Sweetgrass Lane two years ago.
“Prospective buyers look at what is in a plan. We stand to lose at this point,” he said.
Despite saying he understood the concern, Wolfe said, “I don’t think you can preclude at least talking about it. If we didn’t think big, we wouldn’t be the successful small town we are today.”
David Perot, another resident of Sweetgrass Lane, asked the BMA to consider putting something in writing about just how soon the bypass can be constructed.
“If the number is 20 years,” he said, “I would propose the mayor and board of aldermen sign a proclamation to that effect – that no bypass will be built for 20 years.”
While he didn’t get any vocal support from the BMA for such a proclamation, it appears the people of The Meadows Subdivision may have at least one alderman on their side.
When asked where he stood on the issue, Alderman Chuck Vest said he had “reservations to it because of proximity to homes.”
“I travel a lot. I go through a lot of communities,” Vest said. “I’ve seen roads like this be a detriment, but I’ve seen them complement a community, too.
“My personal opinion, right now, I’d rather see it somewhere else.”
Neither Vice Mayor Terry Countermine nor Alderman Mary Gearhart offered their opinions on the bypass.