Five Points Grocery, a Jonesborough landmark dating back to the 1920s, is coming down. (Lee Talbert/ Johnson City Press)
Five Points Grocery, a Jonesborough landmark dating back to the 1920s, is coming down.
On Thursday, contractors for the state Department of Transportation began the building’s demolition, making way for a new roundabout traffic circle planned to reduce the high number of accidents with injuries at the notoriously dangerous intersection.
In an update on the intersection’s improvement, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe said Friday a town-owned water line, Johnson City Power Board lines and equipment and other utilities have been moved out of the construction area and TDOT has put the project out for bid.
The bids are due in later this month and TDOT has advised the town construction will begin sometime in the fall.
“The project can’t happen fast enough,” Wolfe said, “considering the safety concerns with kids going back to school and all the traffic seen this time of year at that intersection.”
TDOT adopted Five Points improvements as a state-funded project in 2012 and announced its plans for construction of the roundabout in January. At that time, Town Administrator Bob Browning said traffic studies had shown Five Points to have the largest percentage of accidents with injuries of any intersection in Jonesborough.
“Traffic circles in themselves slow traffic down. That’s not to say you do not have accidents, but the risk of injuries is much less than if you’re T-boned at 50 or 60 mph. We feel it’s the right thing for Five Points,” Browning said in January.
The decades-old Five Point Grocery was the most prominent of five tracts of private property impacted by the project. Kelly Street, owner and operator of the landmark store, announced in March she would not relocate the business after selling the building and its quarter-acre lot to the state.
“Me and Five Points have had a good run,” Street said a few days before the store’s closing. “I’ve done good business. But I guess it’s time.”
Taking the store’s place as the final gas and go stop for recreational travelers en route from Jonesborough to the Nolichucky River, longtime Five Points employee Gladys Williford and her husband Matt began doing business at The Point convenience market two miles southwest of the intersection the day after Five Points Grocery closed its doors for good.
“It’s an awful intersection. ... Something had to be done,” Street said of the need for the improvements. But like many area residents who attended a public hearing conducted by the TDOT in June, she expressed some doubt about the feasibility of the roundabout. “We’ll see. What goes around the traffic circle comes around the traffic circle,” she said.
Because of the large number of young drivers who pass through Five Points on their way to and from David Crockett High School located a few miles west of the intersection on State Route 34, TDOT said it will provide traffic circle driving safety classes at the high school.