BY KEN LITTLE
A Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) road safety audit for the dangerous intersection of U.S. 11E and Bridge Burners Boulevard includes $1.1 million in recommended improvements.
And the work may get under way sooner than recently indicated.
"We are scheduling this project for a construction letting in July 2013," TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said in a recent email to The Greeneville Sun.
TDOT officials indicated several months ago that bids on the project would not be let until 2014.
The Road Safety Audit Review (RSAR) was approved earlier this month.
"We are in the process of requesting an environmental document that should be issued in eight weeks," Nagi said last week.
Anticipated improvements to the intersection include two flashing warning signs. The beacons are designed to provide "more advanced warning to motorists approaching the intersection," according to TDOT.
Other planned improvements include additional acceleration and deceleration lanes on 11E and Bridge Burners Boulevard.
Warning signs and reflective striping were installed earlier this year.
The safety project will also 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 improve sight lines.
The pavement on Bridge Burners Boulevard approaching 11E will be widened and overlayed as part of the project. Snowplow-resistant reflective pavement markers will also be installed, according to the RSAR.
The improvements will be done to better guide motorists, especially during low light, or in the rain or fog, Nagi said.
State Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville, is a member of the Road Safety Audit Review Team.
Hawk said Thursday that he hasn't seen the RSAR, but that he is well aware of local interest in intersection improvements there.
"Several folks have mentioned their concerns to make a positive safety move as quickly as possible," Hawk said.
The improvements are part of a process that involves several steps, Hawk said.
"Safety on our highways is a great concern to everyone in the community. We want to make sure our highways are as safe as possible," Hawk said.
"We will continue to work with TDOT to make sure this is the best alternative for our community as we go forward."
Federal funds will be used to pay for the lion's share of the project, with some commitment of TDOT funds.
No local funding match is required.
Right-of-way acquisitions will also not be required, according to the RSAR.
According to the audit, the annual average daily traffic volume on U.S. 11E at the intersection was 13,710 vehicles per day.
An estimated 300 to 500 trucks a day enter and exit the Walmart Distribution Center on Bridge Burners Boulevard and use the intersection, the audit states.
The audit also notes that two fatal crashes occurred at the intersection, on April 1 of this year and on Jan. 18, 2011. In the most recent fatal 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," the audit states.
"Both of the fatal crashes occurred during adverse weather conditions, one during rainy/wet conditions and one during foggy conditions," the audit adds.
In addition to the two fatal wrecks, four other crashes happened at the intersection between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2009. Two of the six total crashes occurred during foggy conditions, according to the audit.
The audit also made a conclusion already well known to Mosheim residents and others who travel on 11E.
"Fog conditions regularly occur in the vicinity of the study intersection," the report said.
WARNING SIGNS IN PLACE
Following a site visit in May by TDOT officials, eight advance truck-warning signs, four facing in each direction on 11E, were installed.
Four signs face traffic approaching the intersection from Greeneville, and four other signs face vehicles coming from the direction of Bulls Gap and Interstate 81's Exit 23.
Currently, eastbound vehicles must slow down if a truck turning left toward Interstate 81 from Bridge Burners Boulevard is not using the acceleration lane in the median.
The audit points out that more big trucks will be using the intersection with the opening of the nearby US Nitrogen plant, which is currently under construction.
"[The] intersection will be re-evaluated for traffic signalization in the future after the opening of the new chemical plant," the audit said.
At that time,
updated traffic counts will be done, along with the evaluation of other possible safety
improvements, the audit states.