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State throws Five Points project a curve ball, ‘party still over’ for grocery store

Five Points Grocery appears to be getting at least a temporary stay on its recently imposed death sentence.
According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has not made a decision yet whether to construct a traffic circle or install a traffic signal at the dangerous intersection where the grocery sits — and has put designs for the intersection on hold until it can gather more information.
With a traffic circle, Five Points Grocery, which falls in the right-of-way, would be bought and torn down by the state. With a traffic signal, grocery owner Kelly Street would keep her building, but see her already tiny parking lot made even smaller.
Browning said the final decision for the intersection has always been up to the state, and Jonesborough was simply asked to give its preference for a design since cost estimates for the traffic signal and circle were close.
Last year, Town leaders said they preferred the traffic circle, partly because they had been told the cost would be less for the Town than if they chose the traffic signal.
In a recent meeting, TDOT said it would pause the Five Points project while it looked at costs for property acquistion for both the circle and the signal.
“They wanted to make sure, since there is more [land] acquisition with the circle option than with the signal, that they had realistic figures related to the right-of-way acquisition,” Browning said. “So they are asking their right-of-way division to look into it quickly. They put the process on temporary hold for a few weeks.”
Browning said he was told by TDOT that its project engineer was incorrect in telling the Town a signalization project at Five Points would require a 10 percent match, which would have cost the town between $90,000 and $100,000.
Both alternatives would be 100 percent funded if the final cost was under $1 million, according to a new report.
However, even if the state goes against the Town’s preference of a traffic circle, Street said her days at the store are numbered.
“If I don’t have a parking lot, I don’t have a store,” Street said. “Either way, the party’s over at Five Points.”
Street said her parking is already so limited and the lot becomes extremely crowded on weekends, and beer trucks can barely fit in as is. She said she can’t buy the property behind the store, and she can’t afford to purchase a lot across from the store because it is too expensive.
Browning said he is sending Street a letter which outlines what he’s learned in Nashville regarding improvements to the intersection.
At its Oct. 12 meeting, the BMA chose a traffic circle as the best option for the intersection, where Tenn. Highway 81 South, Tenn. Highway 353 and Washington Drive all meet. The circle has a right-of-way that cuts directly through Street’s store. The Jonesborough Traffic Committee recommended the traffic circle because it would reduce vehicle speed, which in turn would reduce accidents and injuries, according to town documents. It also would better accomodate the trucks that access Depot Street, and allow traffic flow 24 hours a day, unlike the traffic signal.
Browning said he told TDOT either option would be OK with the Town, and the Town realized that they would ultimately make the decision.
The Town’s biggest concern is that nothing will be done at the intersection, Browning said.