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City will respond to traffic concerns at 2nd West Walnut Street public hearing

David Floyd • Jan 31, 2020 at 8:00 AM

After hearing from nearby residents uneasy about the impact the plans would have on traffic in their neighborhood, Johnson City will host another meeting for the public to weigh in on the West Walnut Street project.

Johnson City will hold a second public hearing on the preliminary designs for the redevelopment of West Walnut Street, at which city staff and employees with LDA Engineering, a firm hired to put together construction documents for the plan, will be available to hear comments and answer questions.

The hearing will be Feb. 13 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the City Commission Chambers at the Municipal and Safety Building, 601 E. Main St.

In a press release Thursday, the city said the hearing will start with a brief overview of the project, which will include responses to citizen concerns raised at the first public hearing. The city said minimizing the impact of the anticipated increase in traffic on nearby residents will be a primary focus of the discussion. The Tree Streets neighborhood is adjacent to the planned project.

City Director of Public Works Phil Pindzola said in December that the typical cross-section of the proposed streetscape consists of two lanes, on-street parking, a two-way bike lane on the north side of the road and sidewalks on either side. The plans have also called for extending the double left-turn movements from University Parkway onto West State of Franklin Road up to Maple Street.

Believing people were on board with the road cross-sections and other elements of the project, the city authorized LDA Engineering to move forward with the construction plans. However, Pindzola said the city has put the designs for the traffic patterns at University Parkway on hold.

“That was of the most concern raised by the residents, and we felt that it was very appropriate for the city to go back to the residents and see if we can find resolution that would minimize their fears of increased volumes of traffic in their neighborhood,” Pindzola said.

Traffic was an overarching concern at the city’s last public hearing in December. Preliminary plans at the time proposed completely eliminating a left turn from West Walnut Street onto University Parkway by running a median along University Parkway through the intersection and removing the traffic signal.

Tree Streets residents were concerned this would divert traffic to streets in their neighborhood, particularly Maple Street.

As is, Pindzola said the signals at University Parkway and State of Franklin Road and University Parkway and West Walnut Street are so close that they cause capacity issues and delays. He said the city typically doesn’t want to put signals within a thousand feet of each other. The two signals along University Parkway are a few hundred feet apart.

Pindzola indicated the city is looking for a solution that minimizes the impact to the neighborhood while also enhancing the functionality of the intersection.

Beyond applying the pattern that’s currently proposed or leaving the section unchanged, Pindzola said the city will be bringing a couple new proposals to the hearing for residents to review. One option would involve running the median on University Parkway a bit further up the road, closing off left-hand turns from West Maple Street onto University Parkway.

“We need to come to resolution if we can, so come with an open mind,” Pindzola said.

The city is hoping to send the project out for bids in the Fall.

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