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Safety Grant, Intersection Project Move Forward In Tusculum

Projects to benefit the safety of pedestrians and drivers in Tusculum are moving forward.

Work on long-awaited safety improvements at the intersection of U.S. 11E and state Route 107/Erwin Highway should begin by spring, TDOT spokesman Mark Nagi said Monday.

Meanwhile, an application to obtain funding for a Community Transportation Planning Grant to the city from TDOT is pending.

If funded, the Tusculum Mobility Plan will help identify future transportation needs as also identified in Tusculum University’s Campus Master Plan, last updated in 2002. That plan and the grant application refers to new public transportation, bicycle, roadway and pedestrian policies to “more safely serve the current and anticipated travel demands of the growing student body and city populations, respectively,” according to the First Tennessee Development District, which is assisting the city with the application.

INTERSECTION PROJECT

The TDOT project includes safety improvements on U.S. 11E/East Andrew Johnson Highway from south of Tusculum Heights Road, which runs beside Craven Ink, to south of Ball Road. It includes a section of road about four-tenths of a mile long.

The state-funded project includes installation of metal support poles and intersection roadwork to increase lines of sight for drivers.

Improved traffic signals will also be installed at the intersection. Wooden poles and strain wire currently in use will be replaced with steel poles and mast arms to hold the signal heads. Blinking warning lights will be erected 400 to 500 feet before the intersection to improve safety.

The TDOT project also includes installation of LED signal lights brighter than the ones in current use.

The project has met with funding delays, but appears poised to move forward under the most recent TDOT schedule.

A pre-construction conference was held Dec. 17, Nagi said. Participants included TDOT department members, Tusculum city officials and utility representatives.

The contract was awarded in October 2019 to Kentucky-based Davis H. Elliott Construction Company, Inc. The successful bid totaled $262,920.

The project is scheduled to be complete on or before Nov. 15, Nagi said.

Corley and other Tusculum city officials have voiced the need for safety improvements at the heavily traveled intersection for years.

“The paperwork we received a a few weeks ago indicated that the work is scheduled to begin in early March with a completion deadline of October. I hope it doesn’t take that long,” Corley said Monday.

The busy intersection was identified by TDOT in 2015 as having a 30 percent greater crash rate than others with a similar traffic volume.

The average annual daily traffic count just to the east of the intersection on U.S. 11E in 2019 was 26,555 vehicles, according to figures compiled by TDOT. The average annual daily traffic count just to the south of the intersection on Erwin Highway was 19,945.

“We have demonstrated that there are a higher than average number of accidents at that intersection, and hope and pray that the planned improvements will decrease those accidents significantly,” Corley said recently.

The City of Tusculum maintains existing traffic signals. It replaced some components of the signal controller and lights in the signal heads in 2019.

TRANSPORTATION PLANNING GRANT

The Community Transportation Planning Grant grant to TDOT was recently submitted by the First Tennessee Development District on behalf of the city.

The TDOT transportation grant, if awarded, has a $125,000 cap, with a 10 percent local match. Tusculum University officials pledged their support for the Community Mobility Plan at the Jan. 14 meeting of the Tusculum Planning Commission.

The planning commission passed resolutions offering authorization and support to the city to apply for and participate in the transportation planning grant program.

Dr. Greg Nelson, acting president of Tusculum University, wrote in a Jan. 23 letter that the traffic flow across Shiloh Road through the college includes pedestrian, vehicle and bicycle traffic; residential and commuter students; and faculty and staff.

There are 912 traditional students enrolled in addition to commuters, Nelson wrote.

“I have witnessed increasing concerns regarding safety of our students, faculty, staff, community and visitors coming to campus for athletic and other events,” he wrote.

Nelson listed four main areas of concern, including students walking on Erwin Highway to U.S. 11E North with no sidewalks, students walking on Harlan Street to U.S. 11E north with no sidewalks, and no sidewalks “along the three main thoroughfares” on the college campus: Shiloh Road, Gilliam Street and Erwin Highway.

Nelson also expressed concern about vehicular and pedestrian traffic during community events, including annual observances such as homecoming and the Old Oak Festival, along with baseball games and other sporting events.

The First Tennessee Development District recommended the city apply for the grant. The CMP would help support Tusculum’s goal “of achieving more balanced and interconnected transportation” in the proximity of Route 107, FTDD planner Chase Milner told the planning commission.

Factors the plan would analyze include roadway design deficiencies along Erwin Highway and Route 107, roadway capability issues, safety issues, transportation issues pertaining to bicycle, pedestrian traffic, and a study of a proposed Shiloh Road closure and the development of alternative collector roads surrounding the college. Gilland Street would be the principal bypass collector.

The grant application is one of 32 submitted to TDOT by municipalities across the state.

“Rest assured we will try to fund as many good applications as possible,” Jonathan Russell, a TDOT transportation planning supervisor, wrote in a Jan. 24 email to the First Tennessee Development District and other planning districts in the state.

Pedestrian safety and more efficient traffic control are two topics also regularly raised by citizens, and applying for the TDOT grant was suggested as a means to find solutions, Corley said.

The grant was formally submitted by the Tusculum Board of Mayor and Commissioners, which discussed the grant application at its December 2019 meeting.

The city and Tusculum University jointly submitted the application for TDOT’s 2019-2020 Community Transportation Planning Grant in the effort to create the Community Mobility Plan.

The Niswonger College of Optometry is projected to launch in fall 2021. As a result, there will be more students on campus, with the possibility of even more in coming years as other professional schools open at the university, Nelson told planning commission members.

“You are going to see more students on campus,” he said. “We will do what we can to get this grant.”


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Tusculum Arts Outreach Leader Marilyn duBrisk To Retire

Bringing life to about 70 productions during her nearly 30 years at Tusculum University, Marilyn duBrisk has inspired students, children and community members to pursue their interest in the stage and spread joy to thousands who have sat in the audience.

This semester, duBrisk will take her final bow and exit the stage into retirement, handing off the leadership of Tusculum’s Arts Outreach programs to Wayne Thomas, dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts, according to a release from the university. He will receive help from Brian Ricker, assistant director of Tusculum Arts Outreach, and other members of the team, until a successor is named.

As artist-in-residence, duBrisk has also been a positive force in the community, bringing her love of the arts to schools and working closely with children in a special group at Tusculum to build their performance skills, the release stated.

duBrisk leaves with full confidence the arts program will be in good hands at Tusculum.

“It has been a joyful and rewarding experience to be entrusted with Tusculum’s arts program, and I am grateful for the opportunity to lead it,” duBrisk said. “I have been fortunate to team with our talented performers, dedicated behind-the-scenes personnel and exceptional staff members. They will partner with Wayne to continue this exceptional program, bring joy to audiences and further enrich the community’s quality of life.”

Thomas commended duBrisk for her commitment and enthusiasm.

“Bravo to Marilyn, who has represented Tusculum and the arts with grace and honor and has developed a marvelous program we are excited to continue,” he said. “People of all ages in our region have benefited from her passion for the arts and her outstanding work to grow our program. We will always remember her fondly and wish her Godspeed as she and her beloved husband Wess enjoy a more leisurely pace.”

Originally from Scotland, duBrisk also lived in Central East Africa before attending college in London. She later took a teaching job in Germany, where she met her husband Wess, and then moved around with him while he continued to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

The duBrisks came to Greene County in 1984 when he became director of mass communications at Tusculum. She became artist-in-residence for the Greeneville school system and stayed there until 1991, when she accepted the same position at Tusculum. In her early years in the region, duBrisk sponsored a program to provide books for infants, a predecessor to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

duBrisk is also particularly proud of her work with GLAWPIGT, an acronym for Great Literature Alive Well Playing in Greeneville, Tennessee, the release stated. This is a group for students in grades 3-12 who meet at Tusculum to study performance and inspire other students to find excitement and interest in reading, she said. A major highlight for the group was its performance in 1998 for the National Council for the Arts in Washington.

The Tusculum arts program has also provided extensive outreach to the community with duBrisk as director. In addition to its work with teachers in local school systems, the university has one of the most extensive costume shops in the region. Tusculum has shared costumes with local schools, community arts groups and theaters as well as provided guidance to those in need.

Those costumes have also been on display in performances at the Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Center Theatre and the Behan Theatre. When duBrisk reflects on all the productions, she thinks of the uniqueness of every child she has directed and the bond the cast develops through the weeks they spend preparing for the curtain to rise. But she said no show stands out above the others.

“Comparing shows is like comparing friends,” duBrisk said. “You love them for different reasons.”

Now after decades of bringing delight to audiences and shaping students and adults in the performing arts, she will have time for other pursuits. She said people might still see her in a theater somewhere sometime. Whatever direction her life heads, Dr. Greg Nelson, Tusculum’s acting president, said duBrisk has left indelible footprints on the university’s program.

“Marilyn’s fascinating legacy of the arts at Tusculum has embodied the principle of civic engagement that is embedded in the university’s fabric,” he said. “We have large shoes to fill, but we are excited to build on a strong program to continue entertaining audiences and providing opportunities for those in the local arts community to showcase their talent. The future of our arts program is bright.”


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Woman Killed In West Allens Bridge Road Crash

A Greeneville woman died Monday when the car she was driving went off the 2600 block of West Allens Bridge Road and struck a telephone pole.

Gabrielle Boyd, 38, of 1600 Highway 70 Bypass, was traveling at a high rate of speed around 5:30 p.m. when she lost control of a 1998 Honda sedan, a Tennessee Highway Patrol investigator said in a preliminary crash report. The car veered off the roadway and into the telephone pole.

A passenger, 56-year-old Terry Burriell of Greeneville, suffered injuries and was taken to an area hospital. His condition was not available Tuesday morning.

Boyd and Burriel were both wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, the report said.

Blood test results on the victim and passenger are pending.

In addition to the THP, agencies also on scene included the South Greene Volunteer Fire Department, Greeneville-Greene County Emergency & Rescue Squad, Greene County Sheriff’s Department and Greene Coiunty-Greeneville EMS.


Local_news
New GL&PS Substation Closer To Energizing

Greeneville Light & Power System’s newest substation is getting closer to going on line.

Placement of gravel inside the West Greene substation is to be finished as soon as weather allows, GLPS Operations Supervisor Chuck Bowlin reported Monday to the Greeneville Energy Authority board of directors. The board is the governing body for the utility.

Once the gravel is in place, work will begin to install wiring for the substation’s control center to get it operational, Bowlin said. After this and other final items are completed, the substation will be prepared for activation.

After it is energized, the new substation, located on “Big Ridge” above Lick Creek on West Andrew Johnson Highway, will be a fourth delivery point into the GLPS power distribution system from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Currently, the three delivery points for power from the TVA are the original one, located off East Andrew Johnson Highway near Plus Mark Inc., another on Hal Henard Road near the Greenville-Greene County Humane Society’s Animal Shelter, and the newest on Rockwell Drive, off Industrial Road

The addition of the delivery point will increase the reliability of electrical service for customers, GLPS officials have explained in the past.

Another delivery point provides increased capability for Greeneville Light & Power to switch loads around in the system when an issue may arise at a substation or within the distribution system from weather, a vehicle accident or mechanical malfunction. That capability can reduce the length of power outages for customers or keep widespread outages from occurring.

Greeneville Light & Power hit its service reliability goal for the month of December with a 9.999 rating. GLPS tracks its service reliability monthly, which looks at such factors as the number of outages, their length and how many customers were affected.

Although not widespread outages, the two largest outages in December were caused by vehicle accidents, Bowlin reported. The system has experienced more significant outages thus far this month, particularly on Jan. 11 when Greene County had stormy, windy weather, he said.

In other business, the board gave GLPS authority to seek bids for the replacement of a standard bucket truck and a digger derrick truck. Both trucks to be replaced are 2010 models.