Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Crash-prone junctions get few suggested fixes
Metro identifies $1.3M in needs; most must wait

Traffic slows on Murfreesboro Road near Thompson Lane during a Monday evening rush hour. That intersection tops a list of the ones in Nashville where the most crashes occur. SANFORD MYERS / FILE / THE TENNESSEAN

Published: Sunday, 07/08/07

Recommended improvements to Nashville's 30 most dangerous intersections would cost $1.3 million, but the city plans to spend only $36,000 to chip away at the problems in the next 12 months.

One of the intersections — where Harding Place meets Nolensville Road — was the site of more than 240 accidents in the two-year period that ended in December 2005.

A January report identified the intersections, and engineers have recommended $1.3 million in projects that include adding signs, moving traffic signals or adding turn lanes.

None of the engineering suggestions were included in Mayor Bill Purcell's proposed capital budget for 2007-08.

Items recommended for budget funding include a
$5 million downtown redevelopment project to upgrade lighting and signals, $12.9 million for a civic square in east Nashville, and $50 million for a parking garage in Hillsboro Village.

City engineer Mark Macy said Metro is seeking grants before paying for fixes with city dollars.

"We would like to solve every one of these. There's no question about that," Metro transportation manager Bob Weithofer said. "We need to know how much money we have, and what's the best way of spending it."

Murfreesboro Road and Thompson Lane was listed as Metro's most dangerous intersection. Since the city report identified the danger, 11 more accidents have happened. The same junction ranked third most dangerous in a 1999 report but wasn't fixed then either.

One reason: the price tag. Metro officials estimate it would cost $149,000 to bring the intersection up to snuff. The bulk of the money, $142,000, would be spent to realign left turn lanes.

Olivia Epps of Nashville can't say whether structural changes to the intersection would have prevented her accident there.

Epps, 18, passed through the intersection each day on her way to Hume-Fogg Magnet School. There's nothing particularly confusing about the road, she said, but it's "not the friendliest place to drive."

In April, she was just past the intersection when a car pulled out of a parking lot to make a left turn, directly into her car's path. Epps was hit head-on, totaling the car she'd bought two days before.

"There was nothing I could do to prevent it," Epps said. "I've been scared to drive a lot in that area since then."

Some work is already set

A few of the intersections should become safer as a result of construction that has long been planned but is unrelated to the intersection study.

For example, city officials sought $4.2 million to add turn lanes at Haywood Lane and Nolensville Road, ranked the 25th most dangerous in the study. Also, $500,000 in intersection improvements was requested where Dickerson Pike, Ewing Lane and Broadmoor Lane meet.

But the vast majority of perilous junctions won't be immediately addressed, in favor of other public works priorities.

The proposed intersection improvements range from the fast and cheap, like adding yield signs, to long-term, pricey construction projects.

Old Hickory Boulevard and Central Pike, which ranked 17th-worst for accidents, would require about $600 to put up signs prohibiting right turns during red lights. But at Murfreesboro Road and Millwood Drive, a driveway must be relocated and crosswalks and automated walk signals are recommended, at a cost of $14,800.

For some intersections, like several on Nolensville Road, the study concluded that anything that could be done easily already has been done. Anything more to make a real difference in the crash rates would require buying land and expanding the roadway.

Macy, the public works engineer, said the city would first concentrate on improvements deemed immediate. Adding yield signs at Antioch Pike and Harding Place, moving the spot where cars stop at Paragon Mills Road and Nolensville Road, and installing two left turn signs at Conference Drive and Vietnam Veterans Boulevard are on the list.

But more costly fixes — adding a left-turn lane and overhead signs at Trousdale Drive and Harding Place, or placing a yield sign and an island to slow down drivers turning right from Dickerson Pike to Trinity Lane — will have to wait.

Most are state roads

"TDOT," the Tennessee Department of Transportation, "and Metro are going to have to get funding appropriated to take care of it," Macy said.

Most of the crash-prone intersections are on state routes and fall under the jurisdiction of the state. State highway officials are looking into ways to pay for improvements at intersections on Metro's troublesome list, where crash rates are high but a low number of deaths keeps them off the statewide priority list.

No Nashville-area intersection is on the Tennessee Department of Transportation's priority list for funding, based on the severity and frequency of accidents.

"The fact that there are no Davidson (County) intersections in the top tier of the statewide list of roadway sections and intersections with a critical safety rating is a good thing," said TDOT spokeswoman Julie Oaks.

City agencies typically work with the state on improvement projects, Metro officials said.

More than half of the accidents studied at Metro's worst intersections happened because of driver errors, such as running red lights or driving recklessly, according to police reports. But transportation officials said they could anticipate driver mistakes and try to reduce them.

If lots of rear-end collisions happen because a driver makes a right turn on a red light into traffic, the study said, adding a turn lane and restricting the turns during red lights could make a dent in the problem.

"We'd love to blink and fix the world, but it's a big world, so we've got to take nibbles," Macy said.

Published: Sunday, 07/08/07


Metro Public Works is proposing more than $1.3 million in improvements to the city's 30 most dangerous intersections. Here's a sampling of the work it hopes to do.

1- Thompson Lane and Murfreesboro Road
$49,300 for moving the stop lines at the traffic signals, adding "no right turn on red" signs, overlapped right-turn lanes, and a realignment of the left turn lanes.

3- Broadmoor Lane, Ewing Lane and Dickerson Pike
$35,600 to remove a problematic driveway, delineate a driveway's location, move a traffic signal within the intersection, and add back plates to the signals to make them more visible.

9- Bell Road and Hickory Hollow Parkway
$165,000 to add islands separating cars turning right from oncoming traffic, overlap right-turn lanes and realign left-turn lanes.

24- Charlotte Pike and White Bridge Road
$6,100 to add yield signs, move the stop bars and phase the traffic signals to add time between green lights. An additional analysis on how to add capacity is also recommended.

29- Andrew Jackson Parkway and Lebanon Pike
$8,000 to add overlapping right-turn lanes.

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