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Comments on the Executive Agenda Part 2

City of ClarksvilleClarksville, TN – The other item I wished to comment on for your info and consideration are efforts to fix traffic problem at Exit 11.  Many of you know that my efforts to gain stoplights at the Sango Road – MLK/Hwy 76 intersection go back to 2000.  A study effort request that I submitted on behalf of several neighborhoods back at that time did not support stoplights.

After being elected to the council in 2007, I made another request to have the area looked for traffic volume and stoplight needs.  Again the study did not support the need.  Around 2009 I again asked for a study from the state and it was performed.  It showed a greater volume of traffic but not for enough hours of the day.

During these efforts between 2007 and 2010, I met a number of times with our City Street engineers/department heads, the Metro Planning Organization, and representatives of the local and state TDOT offices. The meetings and continual emphasis on the growing traffic issues in the area of Exit 11 were highlighted at every meeting. These efforts have been paying slow dividends. Residents will remember about three years ago, with the help of these offices and their representatives, the crossing lane at the intersection of Sango Road and Hwy76-MLK was re-aligned so that it was directly across from Sango Road.  In addition, turning lanes were added for getting on and off 76-MLK at Sango Road.

About two years ago with the help of the same offices and Mayor Piper, we were able to get money set aside to three-lane Sango Road from the Park & Ride to 76-MLK. This would allow for a dedicated right turn lane for Sango onto 76-MLK to go toward the interstate, a dedicated center lane to cross 76-MLK to go toward Madison Street, and the left lane to turn onto Sango from 76-MLK.

While we have had the money for several years, it has taken that long to get all the “T’s” crossed and “I’s” dotted with the state. One of the final steps to actually getting dirt moved and pavement laid will happen next week (see my previous emails on this topic) on December 5th at the Gas & Water Building at 5:00pm (I’ll send another email flyer out shortly). This is a public meeting to allow for comments required by state law on this project. So thus far gains to improving the situation have been ongoing.

About a year after my last effort to gain stoplights at the intersection, a state trooper was reported as being hit in the Exit 11/Sango Road area. Not too long after that the state notified the Clarksville Street Department. who, in turn, notified me that another traffic study of the area would take place. The Street Department worked very closely with the state (as they have done before) to gather the latest data, areas of greatest problems, and placing the observers in locations where the impact of the traffic was greatest. This effort finally paid dividends with the state saying there was enough traffic to require stoplights. I received a very preliminary plan/layout of how the area might look with three lanes on the Exit and stoplights at the Exit and Sango. The only problem was there was no money to do the job at that time.

As area residents know, traffic loads were going up by leaps and bounds. Particularly around the 5:15pm- 6:15pm time periods, traffic was backing up past the Mile Marker 10 sign on the Eastbound lane. If you will refer back to my October 7th 2011 article (Subject: Council Recap – October 6th), I informed area residents that I had contacted the Clarksville Police Department and asked for traffic control help at the Exit.

The Chief and the District office have worked to provide officers when available. I asked the Chief to document any additional information concerning the traffic, so I could meet with Mayor McMillan in a few weeks to enlist her aid in talking with our local state representatives to try and get funding for the proposed stoplights and Exit improvements.  I talked with the Mayor’s Chief of Staff around that same day to inform him of the actions that I had requested and to inform the mayor of where I was heading with this effort.

The Chief of Staff mentioned that Councilman Burkhart had also been working this. I had not heard anything about this and asked what actions had he been involved with. The Chief of Staff brushed it off that it was really nothing and no more was said about it. The Leaf-Chronicle is a member of my Ward 10 email list and saw what I was working on and called me for information around October 11th or 12th. On October 13th they published a story about the Exit and it was revealed that the state had money and the project would proceed according to Mayor McMillan in the newspaper account.

The story referenced efforts by Representative Curtis Johnson to enlist state funding. I appreciate his efforts and I am sure he was aware of the problems as he is a resident of Ward 10 and a former councilman for our ward. Representative Johnson’s effort would have the state pay for a three lane Eastbound exit ramp with a lane to move traffic toward Madison Street, a lane to allow traffic to have access for a turn onto Sango and a third lane to direct traffic toward Adams, TN.

This was great news and it’s too bad that I, residents of Ward 10 and our own Street Department didn’t have a clue until we read about it.  I had actually asked if there had been any news about money or anything else dealing with the Exit 11 study only a couple of weeks before and no one knew anything. The Chief of Staff didn’t mention that the mayor had any funding actions underway when I had talked to him the week before. He knew I was going to approach that subject with the mayor in the coming weeks.

It was around October 13th or 14th the mayor was on a radio show and was asked about the news on Exit 11.  She referenced Councilman Burkhart again. On November 16th Councilman Burkhart was interviewed by a Nashville news station about the Exit 11 traffic problems. In that interview he stated that he was working with Mayor McMillan, Representative Pitts and Senator Barnes and was quoted as saying “We’re trying to get some property acquired”.  He stated that he wanted to go through the city council to either raise money or do a budget amendment to buy the property next to the exit ramp and move the ramp over to where it would directly intersect with Sango Road.

If anyone had bothered to ask me or our Street Department, or attended the meetings I was involved with our own engineers and those of TDOT, it would have been clear there are some issues with his proposal. There are sinkholes, time delays, environmental studies, and much higher costs involved. Any major ramp rework/movement would be more likely considered at a time when I-24 might need to be three lanes in each direction.

The possibility of sound deflection walls constructed to help cut some of the traffic noise that some Ward 10 neighborhoods experience that lie along the I-24 corridor could be looked at also. We actually pondered (for a very short time) moving Sango Road to intersect with Economy Drive, which is a little further down 76-MLK toward Madison Street. However, that had many problems and issues too. So as you can see there has been a great deal of work and thought put into this problem if those who wish to be involved would communicate.

I called Representative Johnson on November 17th and talked about what specifically was included in the state’s proposal to fix Exit 11 and to see if it had changed much from the preliminary plan I had. I asked if he had anything in actual black and white that said this was approved. He said no, but had assurances it would happen and that a bid/contract would be going out within a few months. He stated the price tag was about $1.3 million and the state would fund it out of a safety program that was built for such issues/purposes.

The state has enough right-of-way to increase the Exit from the one to two lanes that are there now to three lanes and do any other traffic improvements and stoplight requirements. I mentioned what Councilman Burkhart had stated in his news interview about getting money and moving the ramp.  Representatives Johnson did not seem aware of moving the ramp.

So in Monday’s Executive Session I will ask, for the record, what in hell is actually going on with Exit 11. Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? At a time when the edict is there will be no private deliberation on city issues it seems someone is talking behind doors. It appears that the state has all but put it in concrete that they will fund the project and fix our problem. That should be the final step on getting this project underway with no further delay.  I am VERY concerned that any talk that the mayor or some member of the council is not satisfied with the state’s paid solution that could wind up delaying or tanking the whole project.

According to the interview, Councilman Burkhart was quoted as saying “If we’re going to spend some money, let’s go ahead and fix it right now instead of throwing good money out”. I have had friends and ward residents that have lost family due to traffic accidents in that area. I will not stand for anything that hints that we are unhappy that the state will fix this problem or that we want to delay for other reasons. I also thought the city was in financial bind since the mayor requested a 5% budget cut out of every department only 90 days after the council barely passed a budget.  Where will we find the money except by killing another project.  Unlike the Woodstock drainage problem, we don’t have to buy anyone out to fix this, so why look to spend more money for a problem that isn’t needing funding?

I do not want another Rossview Road issue to surface again. For those that may not remember, the state recognized a bad traffic situation developing on that road about 10 or 12 years ago. They planned to go in and widen Rossview. However, some area residents and the city council would not support the state’s proposed actions. The state pulled the improvement action and now years later we have a major mess with Rossview Road and the city is now left trying to fix it.

Rossview Road needs money and support and is the dividing line between Councilman Burkhart’s ward and mine. If he wishes to raise money, then lets do it for Rossview road or near the intersection of Madison and 76/MLK. We also need a street that would run behind Ruby Tuesday and Arby’s so we could close the Madison Street access to those business and stop people from hitting each other trying to cross Madison Street or backing traffic up in the turn lane for 76-MLK.

Editor’s Note: This article contains the view points of Councilman Bill Summers and may not represent the views of the rest of the City Council, the City of Clarksville or ClarksvilleOnline.

Bill Summers
Bill Summershttp://www.cityofclarksville.com/
Bill Summers is the City Councilman for Ward 10 in Clarksville, TN. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of the City of Clarksville or Clarksville Online.
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