Town studying turn lanes on Highway 11E
By Kristen Swing
Earlier this year, the town’s Traffic Advisory Committee received a request from West Hills Tractor, 1103 W. Jackson Blvd., to install a left turn lane into its business from the westbound lanes of the four-lane highway.
While the committee approved such a lane, the request sparked debate over who should pay for it.
“The question becomes whether the town or the developer has to pay for it,” Town Administrator Bob Browning said at the time. “That question has not been answered yet.”
On Nov. 29, another owner of property along Highway 11E requested the town approve a turn lane at a median near his land at 1407 W. Jackson Blvd. And, he has asked that the town pay for at least a portion of the project.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation is requiring landowner Mark Ferguson, also a county commissioner, to put in the turn lane in order to accommodate the traffic expected at the Family Dollar Store opening early next year on the property.
Ferguson argued the turn lane that would allow westbound traffic to turn left into his property would also vastly improve safety on the highway.
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to be asked to pay for Jonesborough’s safety concerns,” Ferguson said. “It is the last turnaround before you get to Persimmon Ridge (Road) and (vehicles) all use that turnaround.”
Ferguson, who also owns a car wash and trailer business on the property, said he has seen safety problems along that part of the highway since 1988.
Todd Wood, project engineer for the Family Dollar Store as well as the town’s contract engineer, supported Ferguson’s claims.
“We were down there for 30 minutes with TDOT,” he said. “They were surprised at the number of cars making a u-turn there.”
Ferguson asked that the town consider partnering with him to create the lane.
“Take a look at it and observe what’s there,” he said. “Then we can make a decision that everybody can live with.”
While Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe promised the town would “look at it with an open mind,” he stopped short of committing to sharing the cost of the project.
Instead, Wolfe said the town needs to look at all the median cuts between Persimmon Ridge Road and the James B. May II Bridge heading east, not just the one in front of Ferguson’s property.
Committee members agreed with a plan to conduct a traffic study to collect data on the median in front of Ferguson’s property and two more going east.
Wolfe emphasized the need to have traffic cables up in those locations long enough to get the proper amount of data to make a decision. Just how long, however, was another point of discussion.
Ferguson informed committee members the Family Dollar Store will be opening in February 2013 and TDOT expects that turn lane to be installed pretty soon thereafter.
“We need to have them up long enough to assess it,” said Bob Browning, town administrator. “(The Traffic Advisory Committee) probably won’t have another meeting until January. There’s no reason for us not to have it collected by then.”
At the meeting last month, the committee also unanimously agreed to send along to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen a proposed policy on the installation of turn lanes and the town’s involvement in such projects.
That policy outlines six instances in which turn lanes may be installed and the level of involvement expected from the town in each one. Scenarios include everything from turn lanes required at developer-generated traffic signals to turn lanes solely for residential or commercial projects and turn lanes undertaken to improve traffic safety.