By Jonathan Pleasant
County and state officials met in Doe Valley this past week to discuss a potential upcoming safety improvement project along Highway 67 near the Johnson County Industrial Park. Looking particularly at the intersection of Pedro Shouns and Sprucey Road, Nathan Vatter, the chief traffic engineer with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) discussed the project with members of the county commission and school board, as well as Road Superintendent Tony Jennings, County Mayor Larry Potter, and State Representative Timothy Hill.
With school bus stops along this section of highway, County Mayor Larry Potter was the first to point out the safety hazards that could result from an area already noted for its high number of accidents. With increased traffic coming from multiple sources including the Northeast Correctional Complex, a large mobile home park, N&N Ball and Roller and, most recently, Omni Source, there is a steady and growing stream of people coming and going, made all the more dangerous by a nearby hill and curve limiting site distance on Highway 67.
Having listened to the concerns of several citizens while also noting the constant black streaks left from near collisions, Potter made a strong effort to bring the situation to the attention of state officials. Representative Timothy Hill was one of the first to get on board, and working together with Mayor Potter, had discussed the situation with TDOT. Consequently, by the time Vatter arrived Friday, he was able to present plans that had already been drawn up to look at what improvements would be necessary to fix the issue.
Essentially TDOTs proposal would be to widen this section of Highway 67 to incorporate a middle turning lane for both Sprucey Road and Pedro Shouns. As a part of the widening, two small box bridges would also have to be rebuilt and widened and utilities removed out of the right of way. Additional right of way could potentially be required, and with the presence of both Doe Creek and two of its lesser tributaries, the project would also need an environmental study and permits from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).
Bearing these preliminary measures in mind, Vatter confirmed that it could be two to three years before the project is completed, assuming that funding can be secured. Currently federal monies are available with a state match for safety projects such as these. Proposed safety projects then come before TDOTs spot safety committee for consideration. The deadline for submissions is March 8th, making Johnson County right on time to be heard at the March 21st annual committee meeting.
Mayor Potter also presented Vatter with a resolution from the County Commission, showing their unanimous approval of the project. Coupled with a letter of support from the Johnson County School Board and another from Representative Hill, local officials made very plain their desire to see the work get underway.
For more information, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.