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Traffic problems at Justice Center

Traffic issues around the Justice Center on Highway 11E have town and county leaders teaming up to find a solution “before someone gets killed.”
The biggest problem area is the intersection of North Cherokee Street and Highway 11E, according to Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe, who spoke on the topic last week at the County-Owned Property Committee of Washington County.
“There’s a problem already there and it continues to get worse,” Wolfe said. “I think it’s important we change something before someone gets killed.”
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 the westbound lanes of traffic then wait in the median until they can pull into eastbound traffic to head toward Johnson City.
“I have noticed not one, not two, but three cars – all at different angles – out in the median right there,” Wolfe said. “It’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when somebody is going to get hurt.”
According to Wolfe and some members of the committee, original plans for the Justice Center project, which was completed two years ago, included an access road going through the property to direct traffic in a different pattern.
“That access road went from (North Cherokee) through the property and hit the light over at Second Avenue,” Wolfe said. “But the road was removed through the main parking area and more parking spaces were added instead.”
Wolfe asked committee members to consider joining forces with the town in creating a solution to the traffic problem.
“When you come out of the Justice Center onto Cherokee, you shouldn’t be allowed to make a left turn,” said Mark Ferguson, committee chairman. “That’s the biggest problem in Jonesborough – that spot at Cherokee.”
Committee member Alpha Bridger agreed, saying she once made a left turn there and “made it across by a miracle.”
The goal, it would appear, is to reestablish the access road running through the Justice Center property in order to direct traffic to the light at Second Avenue, which is along the opposite side of the property. Additionally, leaders want to prohibit exiting from North Cherokee Street altogether with the help of “redirectional tools” such as a landscaped median on Highway 11E to block access for left turns.
“I would love to see us come up with some feasible, reasonably economic solutions to address this,” Wolfe said. “We will be willing to handle the part on 11E and Cherokee if you all will be willing to handle your part on the property.”
The project could also include the closure of the entrance to the Justice Center directly off of Highway 11E. Once the main entrance to the Washington County Detention Center, it is no longer needed because of the access to the Justice Center from Second Avenue on the west side of the property and from North Cherokee Street on the east side.
“When you take that old entrance out, that’s going to pick up a lot of parking places,” Ferguson said. “You’re going to pick up almost as many as you’re going to lose (from putting in the access road).”
The committee voted unanimously to recommend to the full county commission that Washington County split with the Town of Jonesborough the estimated $2,000 cost of having an engineer look at the site and come up with possible solutions to the problem.
The collaboration will also have to be agreed upon by Jonesborough’s Traffic Committee and Board of Mayor and Aldermen.