Students cross in traffic Wednesday between ETSU and Millennium Park. (Ron Campbell/Johnson City Press)
City commissioners have been talking about pedestrian safety on West State of Franklin Road near East Tennessee State University for some time, and they are likely to approve tonight a $400,000 traffic signal project at State of Franklin and Harris Drive West and John Robert Bell Drive.
The intersection is just east of ETSU’s new parking garage. Signals at State of Franklin would facilitate traffic to and from the new parking garage and the developments across the street, both existing and future, including back access to the Millennium Centre parking garage.
“It is extremely valuable,” Jeremy Ross, ETSU chief of staff for external operations, said Wednesday about the proposed signal. “There will be a number of students and faculty crossing on a general basis. There’s a new 1,200-space parking garage there, so there can be a significant number of people crossing there at any given time.”
Ross said the Tennessee Board of Regents requires the university provide the board with assurance of pedestrian safety, and that ETSU officials have held several workshops with city officials on how best to address the issue.
“If ETSU’s enrollment growth is successful, there are opportunities for other pedestrian safety mechanisms in the future,” Ross added.
Harris Drive West and John Robert Bell Drive intersect State of Franklin between the new parking garage and the Mini Dome on one side of State of Franklin and between Ruby Tuesday’s and Bank of Tennessee on the other. The distance from the new signal to Mountain Home Road/Jack Vest Drive is about 680 feet.
Johnson City Traffic Engineer Anthony Todd said the intersection would be “fully signalized,” meaning traffic lights would be positioned in both directions on State of Franklin, and at the approaches/crossings of both Harris Drive and John Robert Bell. Todd said four new crosswalks would be constructed and pedestrian signals would be installed.
“This is among some of the first steps taken to address safety in the corridor from ETSU to downtown,” Commissioner Jenny Brock said. “You’ll also be seeing another project start up nearer downtown on State of Franklin where pedestrian improvements are being made. This signal shows the state we are trying to be proactive in addressing the issue of increased traffic due to the coming performing arts center.”
Should the procedural steps go as planned, the cost will come directly from the federal program.
The funding would come from the federal Surface Transportation Program, said Glenn Berry, Johnson City Metropolitan Planning Organization director.
“It must first be justified by the state,” he said. “Once that’s done, the city manager (Pete Peterson) would come to us in an executive meeting, which would include the mayors of Johnson City, Elizabethton, Jonesborough, Washington and Carter counties, and a state representative. They would formally ask that our Transportation Improvement Program be modified to use federal money for this project. Then, we would send a recommendation to the state, who would convey the request to the Federal Highway Administration. But the money would filter down from TDOT.”