Clarksville, TN – City of Clarksville officials are taking steps to improve traffic flow around the Rossview schools campus while a more lasting solution – widening and improving Rossview Road – takes shape over the next 18 to 24 months.
Construction of the $800 million Hankook Tire facility on the north side of Interstate 24 and the related project to widen and rebuild the Exit 8 interchange to serve the plant have worsened school traffic problems.Since classes started August 8th at the three schools, motorists have faced long lines of morning and afternoon traffic on Rossview Road and Dunbar Cave Road.
The congestion at times has caused buses and other school-related traffic to back up on the eastbound interstate ramp.
This week, responding to questions and complaints from residents, Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan and Jack Frazier, city engineering manager, outlined short- and long-term steps the city is taking.
“We know the traffic is in knots around Rossview schools on weekday mornings and afternoons,” McMillan said Tuesday. “Student safety is our top concern, and we want citizens to know that staff from engineering to legal to our police force is working daily to relieve some of the pressure right now, while expediting measures to build a new, higher capacity road to solve the problem.”
Near-term options to increase traffic capacity around the schools are limited, but two steps are providing some help.
As school began, Frazier said city staff monitored the traffic on the interstate ramps and hand operated the traffic signals to optimize flow and limit backups on the ramps. After a few days of observation, the signal timing was adjusted, and the maximum green light time on the ramp was raised by 32 seconds.
“Observations of the signal indicate it is now performing in a safer manner,” Frazier said.
The city also focused on ensuring top performance by the two uniformed crossing guards who serve at Rossview. They are on-site morning and afternoon, serving as whistle-blowing, hand-waving traffic cops, and doing their best to improve traffic flow in the school zone. School crossing guards on city streets are part-time city employees, trained and supervised by the Clarksville Police Department.
Overall, planning for the Rossview Road, also known as State Route 237, began in 2009. When completed, the improvements will stretch from Exit 8 east to Page Estates, and will be five lanes with curb, sidewalks, a multi-use path, and a signal at Cardinal Lane near the schools.
Last summer, as the impact of Exit 8 improvements became clearer, the city met with state and school officials to discuss Rossview Road. To expedite a solution, the city offered to manage the project. To quicken the pace, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) allowed the city to split the project in half and focus first on the section from the interchange to Dunbar Cave Road, where right-of-way acquisition will be faster.
The city has assembled an acquisition team that is acquiring right-of-way for the project, a painstaking process that requires making offers to landowners and at times using eminent domain.
Frazier said with a bit of luck, utility relocation and earthwork may start next spring, with completion of the first section expected by the time school starts in 2018.
“We need to plead for patience, as we work to handle the rapid growth in our community,” McMillan said. “Hankook Tire, which will employ 1,800 workers, is a huge economic boost for Clarksville. To make this kind of economic expansion possible, we have to make these kinds of road improvements, which are complicated and take time to complete.”