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Concord signal nixed

A proposed roundabout at the intersection of Northshore Drive and Concord Road has led some community leaders to question, why?

“It was a roundabout or nothing,” said Craig Leuthold, Knox County commissioner (District 5).

Leuthold added that the intersection has been a topic of discussion for years and residents in the area questioning why a traffic signal could not be installed at the intersection had approached him. Leuthold said he turned to Knox County engineer Bruce Wuethrich for answers.

“I spoke with Bruce Wuethrich and he said that Northshore Drive is a state highway and according to T-DOT doesn’t warrant a traffic signal,” Leuthold said.

Leuthold added that the problem with a turn signal is that additional lanes have to be constructed for turning lanes and that there is simply not enough real estate available to do that job.

Cindy Pionke, Knox County director of planning and development, said a roundabout was the best solution for the intersection in that area.

“There are several factors that rule out a turn signal at that intersection,” Pionke said. “The length of the turn lanes, the cost of expanding the east bridge that would support one of the turn lanes, right of way acquisition and a sink hole are a few of the issues that would have to be overcome.”

Leuthold said information that he had gathered indicated “installing a turn signal would compound the problem at Northshore and possibly cause lengthy backups during high traffic periods.”

Pionke said that people who are opposed to a roundabout generally reference the well-known bad design of the St. Petersburg, Fla., roundabout.

“It’s the poster child for bad design,” she said and assured that this design would not have its flaws.

Pionke added that funds for the project — $54,000 — had been approved by Knox County Commission at its September meeting. She said that additional funding was from a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program grant, which is a 20/80 funding split between the county and the state.

Pionke said Cannon & Cannon, Inc. had been chosen to design the project and that the finished roundabout would be expandable in the future if Northshore Drive were ever widened to four lanes.

Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond (District 5) recently penned a letter to TDOT head Gerald Nicely addressing the future of Northshore Drive.

In the letter, Hammond asked Nicely to “intensify [TDOT’s] dialogue with Knox County officials regarding the future of Northshore Drive,” stating that “substantial traffic increases are projected for this two-lane road during the next five years. … There is still land to be developed in these areas, which will add more vehicles to Northshore Drive, raising safety issues along with traffic counts.”

Leuthold added that he too was concerned with the increase of traffic on Northshore Drive.

“I’m concerned about the intersection at Northshore and Westland, about the housing and business development coming in at Northshore and Pellissippi and about a proposed Y[MCA] coming in at Concord Park across from the boat ramps,” he said.

Pionke said navigating the roundabout would require “educating” the public to slow down prior to the intersection and that an education program would probably be put into place since the roundabout concept is gaining popularity in the area.

Farragut has a roundabout on McFee Road, Chattanooga has a few and Maryville is proposing one in its future.

Currently, Pionke said, the county is moving “cautiously. We want to see how well this goes.”


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