Rogersville BMA rejects 11-W access closure recommended by TDOT

Jeff Bobo • Apr 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A plan to close a Highway 11-W access road was rejected by city leaders Tuesday after several residents of the subdivision that would be most impacted expressed opposition to the plan.

In November of 2017, the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen asked the Tennessee Department of Transportation to study the dangerous area of 11-W at the West Main Street intersection, where multiple serious and fatal wrecks have occurred.

Last month, the BMA was presented with TDOT’s recommendations, which included new signage with reflective posts, rumble strips and reflectors on 11-W from Arrowhead Drive east to the Route 70 intersection.

The only controversial part of the TDOT recommendations was the proposed closing of Caldwell Drive between the Beal Street intersection and 11-W.

Caldwell Drive is the closest access to the highway for residents of the Sugar Tree subdivision and is located directly across the highway from the West Main Street intersection.

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

Before approving the TDOT recommendation, the BMA agreed last month to survey residents who would be impacted by the road closure.

About 70 residents from Sugar Tree and Allison Heights received a survey asking if they approved the closure, opposed the closure, or neither approved nor disapproved.

There were 33 replies to the survey. Ten opposed the closure, 16 approved and seven neither approved nor disapproved.

The proposed change would have required residents of the Sugar Tree subdivision to access Highway 11-W at Allison Heights.

Several residents who opposed the closure were in the audience at Tuesday’s BMA meeting. No one voiced approval of the road closure.

Among the comments heard from the audience Tuesday were concerns that the closure would hurt their property values.

They also suggested that the problem isn’t Caldwell Drive, but is instead speeding on 11-W and the high volume of traffic pulling out of West Main Street.

There were suggestions from the audience such as closing the West Main Street intersection, limiting Main Street traffic to westbound turns, reducing the 11-W speed limit, or installing a traffic light at that intersection.

Audience members said those options would have a bigger impact on safety than closing access to Sugar Tree.

TDOT indicated that if Rogersville opted out of the of the road closure it would still complete and pay for the the other options included in the study.

Following a lengthy discussion, the BMA approved Alderman Mark DeWitte’s motion to keep the Sugar Tree access open, accept all of the other TDOT recommendations, and ask TDOT to come up with any other possible alternatives to improve highway safety in that area.

The BMA’s request for the original TDOT study in 2017 was a reaction to two fatal accidents at that intersection.

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.