BY KEN LITTLE
Work on safety improvements at the dangerous intersection of U.S. 11E and Bridge Burners Boulevard should begin by late this year, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) said this week.
But there are no guarantees, Mark Nagi said.
Contracts for the work are scheduled to be included in an Aug. 30 bid-letting by TDOT, Nagi said in an email response to questions.
"Traditionally, contracts are awarded after all bids are reviewed in a process that takes around four weeks," Nagi said.
"After that, there would be a preconstruction meeting, at which time a schedule would be set."
About $1.1 million in improvements are included in TDOT plans for the intersection.
"We're looking at the minimum (of) late 2013 for work to begin, but that is purely speculative," Nagi said.
Issues connected to permitting for the project have been resolved, he said.
CRASHES AT LOCATION
Some safety improvements were completed last year in the area of the busy intersection, which has been the site of two fatal collisions and other injury-related crashes in recent years.
The planned safety improvements will be made to do a better job of guiding motorists, especially in conditions of low light, rain or fog, Nagi said.
The two most recent fatal crashes at the intersection happened on April 1, 2012, and on Jan. 18, 2011.
In the April 1, 2012 wreck, two people died, including a 4-month-old infant.
"Similar conditions caused the two fatal crashes in that a vehicle was headed east on U.S. 11E and collided with a tractor-trailer truck making a left turn from Bridge Burners Boulevard at the intersection," a TDOT Road Safety Audit Review (RSAR) from 2012 said.
Both of the fatal crashes happened during adverse weather conditions, "one during rainy and wet conditions and one during foggy conditions," the audit said.
Improvements completed a year ago include the installation of eight advance truck-warning signs. Four face in each direction on U.S. 11E.
Planned improvements to the intersection include two flashing warning signs.
Other planned work includes additional acceleration and deceleration lanes on 11E and Bridge Burners Boulevard.
TDOT officials have said that the safety project will include median modifications to improve traffic flow, extension of the left-turn acceleration lane for traffic turning onto 11E from Bridge Burners Boulevard, and offsetting the left-turn lane on Bridge Burners Boulevard to enhance sight lines.
Warning signs and reflective striping were installed earlier this year.
The Bridge Burners Boulevard pavement on the approach to 11E will be widened and overlaid as another component of the project.
Federal funds cover most of the work, with some commitment of TDOT funds. No local funding match is required.
Right-of-way acquisitions will not be required, according to the RSAR.
TRAFFIC TO INCREASE
The annual average daily traffic volume on U.S. 11E at the intersection is 13,710 vehicles, according to the RSAR audit.
An estimated 300 to 500 trucks daily enter and exit the nearby Walmart Distribution Center on Bridge Burners Boulevard and use the intersection.
The figures average out to 9.5 vehicles per minute each day, a minimum of one truck every 4.8 minutes daily and a maximum of one truck every 2.9 minutes daily.
The audit noted that more large trucks will use the intersection as a result of the opening of the nearby US Nitrogen plant, which is currently under construction and projected to begin operations in 2014.
"[The] intersection will be re-evaluated for traffic signalization in the future after the opening of the new chemical plant," the audit said.
Updated traffic counts will be carried out at that time, along with the evaluation of other possible safety improvements, TDOT officials have said.