Calming coming to State of Franklin

Gary B. Gray • Feb 14, 2014 at 9:31 PM

Increased business and residential growth downtown has pushed a Johnson City road project to the top of the city’s priority list to more quickly address pedestrian safety on West State of Franklin Road.

The State of Franklin Traffic-Calming Project, which will run from Buffalo to South Roan streets, is expected to begin in mid-March and take about three months to complete. The City Commission has approved $200,000 for the project, which had been on the city’s to-do list but was bumped up due to safety concerns.

“As there’s more activity downtown, there’s going to be more parking and a need for greater pedestrian safety,” Public Works Department Director Phil Pindzola said. “This is in anticipation of an expansion downtown. There were a couple people hit crossing in this area. This was going to be done at some point, but with the accidents and the need for extra parking at The Battery and Tupelo Honey Cafe, we decided to do it now.”

It was in this area where a Jonesborough woman walking in the crosswalk at Spring Street was hit by a vehicle April 18. The woman was crossing West State of Franklin from the Cherry Street parking lot side toward downtown when a westbound car on State of Franklin hit her.

Johnson City Police Lt. Larry Williams said at the time that this type of vehicle/pedestrian collision boils down to attentiveness, particularly by motorists who are required to yield to people in a crosswalk. The collision was one of several in the downtown area in 2013.

“This project will eliminate mid-block crossing in that area,” Pindzola said. “One of the critical things we’re doing is eliminating pedestrian crossing from the parking lot south of Cherry Street. We’ll also be adding an 8-foot-wide center median on State of Franklin from Spring to Roan.”

The in-house project includes replacing street lights with a new LED style that will double the brightness of the current lights. Light poles also will be positioned along the median, and two mast arm signals will be placed at the Spring Street crossing.

“The signals will be placed on either side on Spring on either side of State of Franklin, and we’ll also be installing flashing yellow and red lights, as well as flashing lights in the pavement,” Pindzola said. “This will allow pedestrians to push a button at the crossing. When you push these buttons, it increases the amount of time a vehicle has to come to a stop. That’s very common in larger cities.”

Red brick will be used at each crossing, following the aesthetic theme along one block of South Roan that was recently completed and the work that’s been done on Buffalo Street toward Market Street. Work on Buffalo has been completed, but just on the north side. The makeover now will move to the south side.

State of Franklin’s 10-foot-wide pedestrian walkway also will be extended, eventually tying into the Tweetsie Trail’s trail head at Legion and Alabama streets.

“From where it currently ends at Earnest Street, it will be extended in front of Tupelo Honey and tie into the crosswalk at Buffalo,” Pindzola said. “We plan to bring the trail onto the mini-storage site up to Cherry, left down Roan, then headed north again on East State of Franklin. Right now the trail will extend only to Spring Street, but we will be looking at extending it during next year’s budget cycle.”

Pindzola also said the city will be adding 26 additional parking spaces on Cherry Street between Buffalo and Spring. The city is in the process of ordering materials for the project, and the Johnson City Power Board has indicated it will make the lighting available next week.

“Once those are in, we’ll have to shut that area down while we reset the curbing and construct the median,” he said. “Traffic will be down to one lane at times but vehicles will still be able to move through the area. The lights and signals will be installed once we’re through working on the road.”

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