BY KEN LITTLE
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is looking at ways to make a section of highway on U.S. 11E at the intersection of Chuckey Pike and Rheatown Road safer for motorists.
Meanwhile, since work on the improvement project began in late February, there have been two crashes requiring extrication rescues at the intersection as well as other accidents with injuries.
The most recent incident was early Tuesday, when two cars collided at U.S. 11E and Rheatown Road.
Two people in one of the cars were flown to Johnson City Medical Center by Wings Air Rescue. Greeneville residents Kandi Morgan, 29, and Meredeth Lyons, 28, were not listed as hospital patients on Friday.
"That's the second one since the construction began we have had to do extrication on. There have been several others but without serious injuries," said Lt. Phillip Mullett of the Tusculum Fire Department, who served as incident commander at the wreck this week.
Stephen Harris, chief of the Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department, said firefighters have responded to a number of crashes at the intersection since the TDOT work began.
"That's our trouble intersection right there. We've had a lot more [calls there] lately since they've started work there," Harris said. "We're out there all the time."
TDOT has acknowledged the situation.
"They're trying to take that and make it safer," Harris said.
The $1.7 million project includes realignment of the road at the intersection, plus grading, and drainage improvements. The work also includes paving about four-tenths of a mile of road.
The project is expected to be complete by the Sept. 30 deadline, TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said earlier this week.
"A study is currently being requested for this roadway section to determine if the speed leading up to the project can be reduced.
"Also, due to the number of accidents, police presence is being requested to monitor speeds, and any modification deemed necessary to reduce the accidents will be implemented," Nagi said.
TDOT advised drivers when the work began to "be alert for workers and equipment present and use extreme caution in this area."
TUESDAY CRASH DETAILS
A Tennessee Highway Patrol report on the two-vehicle collision at 12:10 a.m. Tuesday was not available until Friday.
Trooper Chad Arnwine said in the report that Zackary Holt, 19, of Chuckey, was eastbound on Rheatown Road crossing U.S. 11E.
The report said Holt, driving a 2000 Ford Escape, failed to yield the right-of-way to a 1996 Subaru driven by Morgan, who was southbound on 11E.
Morgan's car struck Holt's vehicle, "spinning it around, then continued on, striking the guard rail end," the report said.
Two passengers in Morgan's car, including a 7-year-old girl, did not require medical treatment at a hospital.
Holt and a 19-year-old passenger refused treatment at the scene.
Holt was cited for failure to yield, having no proof of insurance, and having no proof of registration, the report said.
Realignment of Chuckey Pike and Rheatown Road will be a major safety improvement when it is accomplished, Lt. Mullett said.
"My opinion on that is, there is more danger with having the angle on Rheatown Road," he said. "There has always been [danger] there."