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Service road, island to fix ‘chaotic traffic patterns’ at Justice Center

A new service road and changes to the intersection of North Cherokee and Highway 11E will likely eliminate the “unsafe” traffic conditions plaguing the George P. Jaynes Justice Center since it opened in late 2009.
Problems were first addressed last November at a County-Owned Property Committee meeting where Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe spoke in support of a joint effort between the town and county to fix the issue “before someone gets killed.”
Issues exist because drivers leaving the Justice Center are exiting from the parking lot onto North Cherokee Street, then attempting to make left turns from North Cherokee onto 11E.
Motorists drive across both westbound lanes of traffic then wait in the median until they can pull into eastbound traffic to head toward Johnson City.
The danger of crossing two lanes of traffic on 11E, combined with the issue of cars stacking up in the median, has leaders concerned for motorists’ safety.
Since September 2010, at least two dozen accidents have taken place in or near the intersection of North Cherokee and 11E.
Engineer Todd Wood, at the town’s request, has created a plan that will reroute traffic and hopefully rectify the situation.
“We know that intersection is unsafe so nobody is going to be crossing those lanes of traffic,” Wood said while explaining his plan. “We want to encourage, force, direct anyone going eastbound to do so at the light at Second Avenue.”
Under Wood’s design, an island would be placed in the median at the dangerous intersection to prevent vehicles from making a left from North Cherokee onto Highway 11E.
Left turns would also be prohibited from the entrance of the Justice Center that sits directly off the highway, making the traffic light at Second Avenue the only option for those leaving the facility that want to travel east toward Johnson City.
Drivers already on 11E traveling eastbound toward Johnson City will, however, be able to turn left into any of the three entry points for the Justice Center, Wood said. Likewise, the specific type of island will still allow motorists traveling westbound on 11E to make a left turn onto Cherokee from the targeted median.
Perhaps the most important part of the plan, a service road running along the outside edge of the Justice Center Parking lot, would allow motorists to travel from the east side of the facility to the light at Second Avenue on the west side of the facility and vice versa.
That portion of the design, however, would be taken on by the county.
“The town’s focus is out on the highway and on Cherokee Street, but it all has to work together,” Wood said. “Right now, some of the things happening internally at the Justice Center are just confusing.”
The service road would eliminate additional confusion by keeping the rerouted traffic out of the Justice Center parking lot. Wood’s design recommends the removal of some parking spaces in the lot to better align the service road.
“How this is done in the interior part of the project is the prerogative of the county,” said Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe. “They recognize the need to be proactive on this before somebody loses their life because of the very chaotic traffic patterns currently existing at these intersections.”
Wolfe said he is “appreciative” of the county’s “willingness to work with us on this,” but added that the town intends to move forward with its portion of the project regardless of the county’s decision on the service road.
“We’re going to go ahead with our plans at the intersections,” he said. “We are full speed ahead on this.”
If the plan, which is only in its conceptual phase at this point, is approved by the proper channels within the county and town, the next step will be to survey tehland and fine tune the design, Wood said.