City begins project aimed at pedestrian safety

Gary B. Gray • Apr 4, 2014 at 11:12 PM

Both pedestrians and motorists should be aware that improvements downtown on a stretch of West State of Franklin Road, officially dubbed a “traffic-calming” project, will cause some temporary side-stepping and lane-changing over the next three months.

Johnson City’s Public Works Department has begun work on a $200,000 project to improve pedestrian safety on West State of Franklin between Buffalo and South Roan streets. The work is being done to address a greater need for safety, especially as density downtown continues to increase.

There have been accidents in the area, and there also is a need for additional parking at The Battery and the planned location for Tupelo Honey Cafe, which will create additional traffic.

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. The collision was one of several in the downtown area in 2013.

“We’re resetting the curbs back a few feet further toward the railroad tracks,” said Phil Pindzola, Public Works director. “After we reset the curbs on both sides, people no longer will be able to use the mid-block crossing (from the Cherry Street parking lot). They will have to cross at either Spring or Roan streets.”

Pindzola said State of Franklin’s eastbound lane in this area is closed, and when curbing repairs are complete it will be opened back up and the other lane will be closed.

“This first month, we’ll be setting curbs,” he said. “In the second month we’ll begin construction on the crosswalks, then we’ll begin constructing the islands. All this will take place over the next three months, though construction will shut down during Blue Plum.”

This year’s Blue Plum Festival in downtown Johnson City will be held June 6-8.

The city will be adding an 8-foot-wide center median on West 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.

Signals will be placed on either side of Spring on each side of State of Franklin, and flashing yellow and red lights, as well as flashing lights in the pavement, will be installed. 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.”

The city also plans to add 26 additional parking spaces on Cherry Street between Buffalo and Spring.

“Traffic will be down to one lane at times but vehicles will still be able to move through the area,” Pindzola said. “The lights and signals will be installed once we’re through working on the road.”

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