City pressing TDOT for signal at Lowe's development

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   City of Elizabethton officials hope to convince the Tennessee Department of Transportation that a traffic signal at the intersection of West Elk Avenue and Wallace Avenue is a critical step in the development of the Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse.
   "I think with the information we provided them it will influence them to go back and look at it again," said David Ornduff, city director of Planning and Development. Ornduff and City Manager Charles Stahl met with Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely earlier this week to discuss city proposals for traffic signals submitted last year.
   In a letter sent to the planning department, 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 a traffic light.
   Ornduff said city officials provided TDOT with a copy of the Lowe's traffic impact analysis as part of the company's overall development plan. In a letter to Ornduff, Lowe's site Development Manager Brent Edmiston writes of the company's concern that a traffic signal may not be operational when the company opens its Elizabethton location later this year.
   Edmiston writes that if a traffic signal is installed after the store opens, it could create "lane closures and roadway work" generating traffic congestion around the area.
   "Lowe's grand openings are more successful when traffic congestion is handled via an operational traffic signal," Edmiston said, adding that, "With substantial monetary investments Lowe's makes on new facilities, grand openings are a very important event" for a successful store operation.
   Ornduff feels that once the state factors in the economic impact of the store and the importance of managing public safety, TDOT could re-evaluate the decision on the Wallace Avenue signal. "I believe there will be a signal there in the future," he said.
   The department decides traffic signal needs based on studies revealing traffic volume, turning movement and a review of the accident history at each intersection.
   Transportation officials reviewed six intersections on West Elk Avenue including Wallace Avenue, where the proposed Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse plans to locate. The development should widen Wallace Avenue into a three-lane road, according to Lowe's development plans.
   A traffic impact analysis conducted by Lowe's site development estimated a daily traffic average of 30,020 vehicles traveling on a section of West Elk Avenue extending from Holly Lane and Walnut Street.
   According to TDOT's Annual Daily Traffic report of 2003, West Elk Avenue averaged 31,200 motorists at one of three traffic reporting stations that monitored vehicle movement on the street. That average represented an increase of over 1,000 motorists on West Elk Avenue compared to the department's 2002 ADT report.
   Responding to other requests submitted by the city, TDOT officials feel that the West Elk Avenue/West G Street intersection did 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 Iodent Way near the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.