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Roundabout may close end of Depot Street for months

Plans to close off one end of Depot Street during an upcoming construction project caught town leaders off guard earlier this month.
Town Administrator Bob Browning said he had no idea about the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s intentions to shut off access to Depot Street from State Route 81 South while the state builds a traffic roundabout at the intersection.
The roundabout has been in the works for years now. It is expected to be constructed by TDOT in late summer or early fall.
During a public meeting held in Jonesborough on March 14, TDOT leaders revealed their intentions to temporarily put a traffic signal at the busy intersection while their crews are constructing the roundabout. As part of that plan, TDOT intends to close off the end of Depot Street at its connection with the state route.
“This was news to me that we found out at the meeting,” Browning said. “They didn’t really talk about their reasoning. They just said they wanted it closed.”
During a Traffic Advisory Committee meeting held March 28, Browning said he has since sent a response to TDOT asking them to reconsider their plans to shut down the road at the intersection.
The request came after Browning spoke with Timothy Smithson, owner of the Washington County Farmers Co-Op, which is located on Depot Street not far from the intersection.
According to Browning, Smithson was concerned about his customers being able to get to the store if the street is completely closed off.
“They’re going to be impacted, probably more than anyone else down there,” Browning said. “So much of their business is coming from the western half of the county. That’s where the farm community is.”
Instead of completely closing down access, Browning is hoping the state will allow motorists to turn onto Depot Street, just not exit off Depot Street onto the state highway, essentially turning it into a one-way street during the project.
At the very least, Browning is hoping drivers coming from the southeast on Highway 81 South would be allowed to make right turns onto Depot Street.
“That shouldn’t cause a problem,” he said. “Maybe that’s the compromise.”
Chris Diehl, of Diehl Trucking, also on Depot Street, will see some impact at his business, too.
His truck drivers will have to be rerouted during the street closure, which is expected to last somewhere around six months.
But it is a problem Diehl is willing to live with in order to get the roundabout in place. “If we get this thing built and it works, it’s going to be great,” he said.