TDOT puts brakes on city's traffic signal requests

By Thomas Wilson
The states's Department of Transportation has turned down a request of Elizabethton government officials that traffic light be installed at a West Elk Avenue intersection primed for an increase in traffic loads.
In a letter to the city's Department of Planning and Development, TDOT regional traffic engineer, Mark Best wrote that the intersection of West Elk Avenue and Wallace Avenue does not meet necessary traffic requirements to warrant the installation of the traffic light.
Transportation officials reviewed six intersections on West Elk Avenue including Wallace Avenue, where a proposed Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse plans to locate later this year. The development should widen Wallace Avenue into a three-lane road, according to Lowe's development plans.
The denial came after the Department of Transportation conducted traffic studies at seven intersections identified for traffic signal improvements and installations by the city's Planning Department. The department's traffic study includes performing a field review, an entering volume and turning movement, and a review of the accident history at each intersection.
According to TDOT's Annual Daily Traffic report of 2003, West Elk Avenue averaged 31,200 motorists at a traffic reporting station that monitored traffic on the roadway. That average represented an increase of over 1,000 motorists on West Elk Avenue compared to the department's 2002 ADT report.
A frontage road will run parallel with West Elk Avenue and provide a connection with the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter store and Tony Fuller Drive. The department recommended the frontage road be used so that Lowe's traffic has access to the signals at Hudson Drive and Bemberg Road.
Responding to other requests, the department said that the West Elk Avenue/West G Street intersection also does not warrant a left turn signal for motorists traveling from West Elk Avenue.
The department also denied installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of State Route 91 and Ben Allen Road near the Elizabethton Municipal Airport. The transportation review did say after the U.S. Highway 91 project was completed, a traffic volume and signal warrant study will be conducted.
However, the department did approve the installation of a left turn signal and other upgrades at West Elk Avenue and State Route 359/Milligan Highway. The intersection's traffic volume and accident history met the requirements of the department according to TDOT's signal warrant study.
Best's letter advised the city to contact its local Municipal Planning Organization to initiate state transportation funding for the turn signal.