April 23, 2014 - 20:40
Hwy. 68 project not approved
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Copperhill won’t be getting new street lights and giving up parking on Hwy. 68 unless it can foot the bill.

Copperhill won’t be getting new street lights and giving up parking on Hwy. 68 unless it can foot the bill. According to Jennifer Flynn, spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the proposed Hwy. 68 safety project was not approved for this go-round of funding at last week’s Safety Committee meeting. She said no decision has been made on how to proceed in light of negative reaction from local residents.

In January, the city council voted to approve the request that the state install new street lights, along with other safety improvements.

Flynn pointed out that the Tennessee Department of Transportation was not forcing this project on the City, only proposing a project to address the safety concerns brought to TDOT by city officials.  For the project to receive safety funding that requires no local matching funds, Flynn said, it must address the safety concern created by on-street parking on Hwy. 68.  As it stands currently, she said, this project is only in the report stage. Local officials can request the project be dropped if they so desire, she said. 

TDOT’s Safety Planning Section had conducted a roadway safety audit review in May 2011 on  Hwy. 68 from just east of Jackson Street to the Georgia line to determine if there was a safety issue.  Mayor Cecil Arp had requested the review to address safety concerns associated with pedestrian traffic and on-street parking.

Within the study corridor, Hwy. 68 is a two-lane highway with ten-foot lanes and seven-foot paved shoulders that are used for parking. (Typically, newer state highways have 11 or 12-foot lanes and 8-foot shoulders if used for on-street parking.) The posted speed limit is twenty miles per hour and the average annual daily traffic volume is 6,034 vehicles per day. 

Flynn said the study showed that between August 11, 2007 and August 11, 2010, there were a total of nine crashes within the study area, including one non-incapacitating injury crash. On-street parking was a contributing factor in all crashes. 

The field review noted vehicles routinely parking in “No Parking Zones” near intersections, which decreases sight distance at those intersections.  There was a concern among local officials that many minor crashes involving on-street parking (such as broken mirrors, etc.) go unreported because drivers may not stop and/or because damage is viewed as minimal.  There was also a concern that the combination of on-street parking and narrow lane widths causes potentially life-threatening delay for emergency vehicles because other motorists are unable to exit the path of those emergency vehicles.  The review team also noted that heavy trucks and recreational vehicles had a very difficult time negotiating the narrow lanes between the parked vehicles and an especially difficult time making turns from or onto Hwy. 68.

Since the project was initiated to address safety concerns, and since on-street parking was a contributing factor in all crashes, the review recommended the elimination of on-street parking on this section, and repaving and restriping with wider lanes to help facilitate a safer and more efficient flow of traffic. 

The review team also noted that sidewalks were lacking in accessibility for persons with disabilities, that pedestrian signals were in disrepair, and that routine maintenance of existing traffic signals was a concern. The review recommended the removal and replacement of four signal heads at the intersections of SR-68 with Ferry Street and SR-68 with Grande Avenue and the installation of pedestrian signals at those intersections.

It also recommended the construction of ADA-compliant curb ramps for pedestrians, “bulb-outs” at each corner of the signalized intersections to improve pedestrian safety and visibility, and high-visibility crosswalks in conjunction with the pedestrian signals. Flynn said these improvements would serve to beautify the downtown area as well as make it more pedestrian friendly, and improve safety for pedestrians and vehicles.


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