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Leaders look for intersection fix

The busiest intersection in town is desperately in need of a makeover, according to town — and now state — officials.
Problems at the intersection of Highway 11E and Boones Creek Road stem largely from the large quantity of vehicles making left turns from 11E onto Boones Creek Road, known also as State Route 354.
A Tennessee Department of Transportation crew visited the intersection last month to monitor traffic flow and determine whether there is, in fact, a problem there.
“TDOT views it as an immediate problem and they do feel it needs to be addressed,” said Bob Browning, town administrator. “Based on the data they collected that day, one-third of traffic going eastbound was turning left onto 354.”
The number of cars turning left there — more than 300 per hour during the busiest times of day — indicates the need to build a second turn lane on the eastbound side of 11E for motorists turning left at the traffic signal onto Boones Creek Road. Such a fix will also require an additional lane be built on the Boones Creek Road side of the intersection to receive both lanes of turning vehicles.
Other traffic issues are also addressed in a plan submitted to the state that was created by engineer Todd Wood on behalf of the town.
Adjustments to business entrances and exits in the immediate area, including one at the Arby’s restaurant and another at the area of Bank of Tennessee and McDonald’s, will likely be changed so drivers are only allowed to turn right out of them onto the roadways.
Those wishing to turn left to travel away from Jonesborough on Boones Creek Road would have to use exit points further down the road to do so.
The state also wants to eliminate the bypass lane coming off Boones Creek Road leading motorists onto 11E going toward Greeneville.
“They’re in agreement that the bypass lane is a problem,” Browning said. “Half the accidents at that intersection are related to that bypass lane.”
According to Jonesborough police data, 108 traffic crashes occurred at the intersection between Sept. 1, 2010, and Feb. 28, 2013.
Thirty-six of those crashes took place in the bypass lane as motorists tried to enter onto 11E heading west. Six resulted in injuries to vehicle occupants.
The lane is dangerous because drivers often fail to stop as they merge into westbound lanes of traffic and have trouble seeing motorists already traveling on 11E as well as those turning left onto 11E from Boone Street.
“You can’t get yourself situated where you can use your mirrors to see what is coming,” Browning said. “You have to physically turn around.”
Instead of keeping the current lane, which was built prior to a traffic signal being installed at the intersection, town and state officials want to eliminate it and create a right turn lane affiliated with the traffic signal.
Additional portions of the plan include the creation of a left turn lane for drivers coming toward the town who want to turn onto Old Boones Creek Road.
Also being considered is a right turn lane off of 11E into Suntrust Bank where the bypass lane currently sits and the creation of a second lane for drivers going straight from Boone Street onto Boones Creek Road.
A request for funding of the entire project has been sent to Nashville. The project is estimated to cost somewhere around $576,000.
“From a safety standpoint, something has to be done,” Browning said. “If it gets approved out of committee in Nashville, then they will start working with us on the details of the plan.”
In the meantime, members of the town’s Traffic Advisory Committee unanimously voted to send a letter to businesses in the area that could be impacted by the project.
“I’d like to request and insist that we go ahead and distribute these plans to all the businesses over there so nobody can say they haven’t been informed about what is going on,” said Kelly Wolfe, town mayor and member of the TAC, prior to the vote.
The letter will explain that the current design is just a proposal and nothing has been agreed upon at this point. Instead, the business owners will be encouraged to engage in discussion with town staff to help come up with the final design for the project.