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Redlight planned for Westland, Northshore drives intersection

The intersection of Northshore and Westland drives is gaining a traffic signal.

County Commission approved the resolution to fix the intersection, a job that will include constructing turn lanes and installing a traffic light, in conjunction with Tennessee Department of Transportation.

This traffic signal may come as a surprise to some motorists after Knox County installed a roundabout at the intersection of Northshore and Concord Road to the dismay of some County residents who would have preferred a traffic signal.

“A traffic light works better [at Westland and Northshore] because of the geometry of the intersection, as opposed to Northshore and Concord. The geometry of that intersection precluded us putting in a signal,” said Bruce Wuetrich, Knox County engineering and public works director.

“Our first thought was to put a signal at Concord and Northshore, but because of a couple different restraints that we had, a signal just wouldn’t function appropriately.

“But at Northshore and Westland Drive, it’s pretty well laid out for a signal,” he added.

Wuetrich stressed that improvements would still be necessary to make the intersection ready for a signal.

“Now, having said that, there’s still going to be lane improvements at Northshore Drive and on Westland Drive in order to accommodate the signal,” he said.

Calls to TDOT about the specifics of these improvements were referred to Cindy Pionke, another employee of Knox County engineering and public works.

“What we’re looking for in terms of turn lanes is when you’re heading eastbound on Northshore and turning left to take you to Westland and ultimately Pellissippi Parkway, and from Westland, there’s a very heavy right-hand turn to take you west on Northshore,” Pionke said.

“Those two turn lanes will definitely be added as part of the signal work out there,” she added.

According to Wuetrich, this intersection is a priority for improvements.

“We have a program that we analyze various intersections throughout the County. And through that analysis, we look at things like the lay, traffic and accident history, and things of that nature. That kind of sets up a priority list of intersections,” Wuetrich said.

“There’s not only a significant delay [at the intersection]; there’s also a safety component there,” he added.

Wuetrich described the most common safety problem at the Northshore and Westland intersection.

“Oftentimes, when you sit someplace for a long time waiting to pull out, what you end up doing is starting to take more of a chance, you cut your intervals shorter and shorter, you’ll go ahead and pull out.

“So we’ve had some accident history there, and we’ve had a long problem with delays at that intersection,” he said.

According to Pionke, signal projects are traditionally constructed with 100 percent state money, but this intersection doesn’t fit traditional criteria.

“Knox County is paying for the engineering that’s being done and we’re paying for any right-of-way that will be required,” Pionke said.

“The reason we set it up that way is that we can move faster on the engineering and the right-of-way acquisition,” she added.

“Then we’d turn it over to T-DOT, who will work on coordinating all the utilities and taking care of the actual oversight of the construction.

“During the actual construction, the contract is currently set up for an 80 percent federal match, 10 percent state match and 10 percent local match … The Northshore portion is a state route; Westland is a County road. I guess that’s why it’s got the weird 80-10-10,” Pionke said.

Although designs have started, the contract still requires TDOT’s final approval. Pionke is unsure when construction may begin or end, since the design and possible right-of-way variances are not completed and because the project will need to meet various environmental clearances.

“I would hope for an intersection project, you would probably get a year to do that,” she said.


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