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Convenience store access growing issue

The much-contested Weigel’s development at the corner of Smith Road and Kingston Pike has become the subject of more attention recently because drivers are making illegal turns to and from the gas station.

Motorists are turning left from Kingston Pike into Weigel’s and left from Weigel’s onto Kingston Pike, both illegal turns in the new traffic formation at the site.

“The proper way to do it, if you’re wanting to go into Weigel’s and you’re headed eastbound on Kingston Pike, is to turn left onto Smith Road and turn left into the facility. And if you are leaving Weigel’s and want to go eastbound on Kingston Pike, then you turn onto Smith Road and then turn left onto Kingston Pike at the traffic light,” said Capt. Ben Harkins of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

“People are either oblivious, unaware, or don’t care, and they’re making inappropriate left-hand turns,” he added.

Currently, two warning signs — one at Weigel’s and one on Kingston Pike — and a concrete barrier are in place to prevent motorists from turning left illegally. But, they still do it.

“It’s a danger because it’s a tough turn, number one,” Harkins said.

“What makes it an even tougher turn is the fact that legally [the project’s contractors] made a right-turn-only and they’ve set up the infrastructure to reflect that in the parking lot. So when people are making those turns they’re even more dangerous because they are causing people to pop curbs and swing out in order to make those turns into there,” he added.

“I had hoped that people would start figuring it out. I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t realize that you’re not supposed to turn in there,” Town engineer Darryl Smith said.

Harkins and Smith plan to meet soon to discuss additional signage and markings to make the illegality of the left turns clearer.

Meantime, Harkins plans to have officers monitoring the intersection and issuing citations. “We’re going to make a pretty concerted effort for the next couple of weeks,” he said.

Harkins and Smith hope that time also will help solve the problem. “A lot of people are not used to [it]. Some of it is just lack of paying attention or being unaware, and I guess just not thinking,” Harkins said.

“There’s always going to be a small percentage of people who won’t comply because they don’t want to,” he added, noting that he hopes these are the people that police officers catch and to whom citations are issued.

Harkins wants motorists to realize the danger of turning left illegally. “This is one of those sites, where if we do have a crash, it’s probably going to be a serious crash.”

The site as it now exists was the result of a compromise between Sugarwood and other Farragut residents and Weigel’s.

Smith and Harkins have not yet discussed any concrete plans for improvement. “I wouldn’t want to go in and rebuild the island because everything’s brand new out there. But at the same time, I do feel that something needs to be done to tighten that up,” said Smith, who has considered raised markers and additional signs.

However, law enforcement and citations as well as time for people to grow accustomed to the new rules are the first steps both Harkins and Smith have in mind.


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