Center turn lanes with elevated concrete curbing have been extended 70 feet to the east and west of the intersection along U.S. 11E and concrete islands have been built on the north and south outlets of Cherokee to prevent motorists from turning left across oncoming traffic lanes as they enter the highway.
Because of reports of motorists diving over construction cones to turn left onto the highway during the construction, Town Administrator Bob Browning said the intersection will be closely monitored over the next several weeks to see if the new turn lanes are being used as intended or if further steps should be taken to improve safety.
If needed, Mayor Kelly Wolfe said small concrete bollards will be put in place to further deter left turns onto the highway.
Cars exiting the Justice Center en route to Johnson City will be directed to the Second Avenue and U.S. 11E intersection that is controlled by a traffic light with a left-turn signal.
Wolfe said the hazard created by motorists on Cherokee Street attempting to turn east toward Johnson City across U.S. 11E’s westbound traffic lanes is longstanding and was made worse by the Justice Center’s opening.
The Jonesborough Traffic Safety Committee, working in conjunction with the Washington County Land Committee and architect Todd Wood of DT Engineering, considered several plans to improve the intersection and selected the new design in May 2012 as a compromise between a business owner opposed to any changes at the intersection and county leaders who recommended a traffic signal at the intersection.
The plans were approved by the state Department of Transportation in February and given priority status for construction by Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen in March after a town employee’s spouse was seriously injured in an accident at the intersection.
Construction began in May and, with the exception of curbing along the highway medians, was completed entirely by the town’s street crews.
Wolfe said the construction was repeatedly delayed by rain and complicated by heavy traffic on U.S. 11E.
An estimated 30,000 cars travel the highway through Jonesborough daily.
The mayor said plans for improvements are also in works at two additional U.S. 11E intersections located west of the Justice Center — at West Hills Tractor and Jackson Heights Apartments.