Rogersville will survey affected residents before closing 11-W access in dangerous area

Jeff Bobo • Mar 22, 2019 at 8:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Transportation is recommending the closure of a small section of road that accesses Highway 11-W in an area of town where multiple fatalities have occurred.

But the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen opted against approving that recommendation until it has time to poll the affected residents of the Sugar Tree subdivision.

The section proposed for closure by TDOT is the small section of of Caldwell Drive between the Beal Street intersection and 11-W, which is the closest access to the highway for residents of the subdivision.

That closure is also directly across from West Main Street’s intersection with 11-W, where multiple serious wrecks have occurred involving vehicles pulling onto 11-W from both sides of the highway.

In November 2017, the BMA asked TDOT to perform a study on Highway 11-W within the city limits after two fatal accidents occurred at that intersection the previous October and April.

On April 11, 2017, a Hawkins County man was killed when a Chevy Blazer allegedly pulled onto 11-W into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.

On Oct. 19, 2017, a Rogersville man was killed when he pulled onto 11-W into the path of a tractor-trailer.

The TDOT report, which was presented to the BMA earlier this month, also recommends new highway signs from Arrowhead Drive east to the Route 70-N intersection, as well as reflectors, rumble strips, and new stop signs for highway access roads.

The total cost of the proposed work is $42,700 and would be covered by the state.

The only aspect of the TDOT recommendation that gave board members cause for concern was the street closure.

“Just about everybody you talk to thinks it’s a good idea to shut that entrance down,” said Alderman Mark DeWitte.

Alderman Bill Henderson initially made a motion to close the road.

However, Mayor Jim Sells asked if anyone had spoken to residents of Sugar Tree, and Henderson agreed to postpone his motion to allow time for a citizen poll.

City Attorney Bill Phillips suggested that the city send residents a survey with a return envelope.

Alderman Craig Kirkpatrick predicted, however, that the result of the poll would be 95 percent of Sugar Tree residents opposed to the closure.

“If I lived there, I wouldn’t want it closed,” Kirkpatrick said. “But if I lost someone’s life in my family — it’s a Catch-22. You’re going to make somebody mad no matter what you do. There’s no way you’re going to win.”

Kirkpatrick added, “But I agree with Bill (Phillips). Send a survey out.”

Affected residents would have to take Allison Street to Russell Drive to access 11-W if the road is closed.

If the city opts against closing the access road, TDOT will still complete and pay for all the other recommendations.

No auto sales on Triangle Drive

DeWitted pointed out the BMA he has received complaints about private residents parking cars posted for sale at Triangle Drive facing 11-W near the TRW plant.

Potential buyers have been blocking driveways and  knocking on doors of nearby residences looking for the owners of the cars that are for sale.

DeWitte asked if that’s illegal parking, and Phillips noted that it violates two or three different ordinances.

Sells directed the police department to identify the car owners and have the vehicles moved.

New home for Chamber of Commerce

With the closure of U.S Bank on Main Street, the Rogersville Chamber of Commerce has to relocate in May.

Last year the BMA purchased the building at 110 E. Kyle St. next door to City Hall for $159,900.

That building had most recently been used by the attorney general’s office.

The BMA agreed to move the Chamber of Commerce into that building, which is currently vacant.