For the third time in three years, a speeding vehicle left Interstate 81 outside Kingsport last week and landed in the Colonial Heights neighborhood. The latest incident involved a truck hauling a trailer loaded with steel crashing into a house.
No one was home at the time, which was a blessing. The driver, who told authorities he had blacked out before the accident, walked away uninjured. The house, however, suffered major structural damage and was soaked with 300 gallons of diesel fuel that leaked from the truck’s ruptured tanks.
The NET News Service reported Thursday that state Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, said the Sullivan County Highway Department and the Tennessee Department of Transportation are looking at building a one-mile barrier between the interstate and the neighborhood.
Those who live near Interstate 26 in Johnson City can sympathize with residents of Colonial Heights. So can drivers who commute daily on I-26. Driving on portions of I-26 can be particularly maddening for considerate motorists. Speeding and aggressive driving is often a problem on the interstate.
Given the heavy traffic and narrow route I-26 takes through Johnson City, such bad behavior can prove to be dangerous to other drivers. We’ve been fortunate not to have had an incident like the one in Colonial Heights.
In the case of I-26, it’s the narrow confines of the left and right lanes that snake through the city that cause concern. That’s why appropriate safety barriers are needed to prevent head-on crashes along narrow sections of the interstate in Johnson City.
It’s disconcerting to see sections of the longitudinal cable barriers along both sides of the I-26 median through Johnson City damaged or missing — no doubt the result of traffic mishaps.
Obviously, these flexible barriers, which are designed to prevent cars from crossing over and colliding with oncoming traffic, have done their job. But what about the next accident?
These cable barriers must be properly maintained and repaired much more quickly if they are going to be effective safety devices. TDOT has made progress in this regard, but more is still needed.