Five Points, as it is known locally, is the intersection of two state routes — Tenn. Highway 81 and Tenn. Highway 353 — and Jonesborough’s Depot Street. The project to improve the intersection is the result of a partnership between the town of Jonesborough and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which was forged due to the number of accidents that have occurred there over the years.
“The highways and Depot Street come in at odd angles, so it’s created a difficult situation for motorists,” Jonesborough Town Administrator Bob Browning said.
Bids for the project were opened in August, and the contract was awarded to Summers-Taylor Inc. The contract is for $1,039,259.50. TDOT adopted the state-funded project in 2012 and announced its plans for construction in January.
“We’ve had not only a fairly significant number of accidents, but a number of them with injuries,” Browning said. “So TDOT has used some safety money to try to change that intersection.”
Browning said TDOT has already completed its design and environmental work for the projects, as well as the necessary right-of-way acquisition. This included the acquisition of Five Points Grocery, which was previously razed to make way for the intersection improvements.
The town of Jonesborough has relocated power and waterlines as part of the projects.
Construction began in late November, and an email from TDOT Community Relations Officer Mark Nagi said the project has an estimated completion date of May 15.
Prior to the start of construction, officials looked at the best way to address the intersection due to the angles in which the roads converge. Browning said officials determined that the installation of a traffic circle was the best option.
Browning said a significant amount of traffic passes through the Five Points intersection in the morning and late afternoon, and a traffic circle would accommodate a continuous flow of traffic.
Even though traffic signals can be programmed and are designed to allow traffic coming in from different directions to flow, they continue to be points of accidents, Browning said.
“People are less, I guess, aware sometime at signaled intersections because they get a green light and they think ‘Hey, it’s my turn,’ and they go through there and they’re not paying (attention) to somebody who runs a signal and T-bones them,” Browning said. “So that, within itself, anytime you can avoid a signal and use some other mechanism, as far as we’re concerned, is a positive thing.”
Browning said the speed limit around the circle would be 25 mph, which lessens the chances of accidents. He said the diminished speed would also reduce the chances of serious injuries in the event of an accident.
The town also has plans to work with David Crockett High School to educate its students on traffic circles and familiarize the students with the feature, Browning said.