Greene County leaders take Asheville Highway safety concerns to state level

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GREENE COUNTY, TN (WJHL)- Greene County officials are calling on the Tennessee Department of Transportation to make changes to a stretch of road they say has been a safety concern for years.

Greene County Sheriff Pat Hankins said he first reached out to the state years ago, wanting to see a slower speed limit on part of the Asheville Highway. 

That part of the highway is where the speed limit increases from 45 to 55MPH near the Church of Christ, and stretches all the way to the Nolichucky River.

After speaking to various people in Greene County this week, we discovered this isn’t the only area of concern.

Not far from where Sheriff Hankins wants to see the speed limit lowered sits the intersection of Debusk Road.

It’s a place where a 5-year-old was severely injured in a wreck, after the car he was in was rear-ended as they were trying to make a left turn onto Debusk from Asheville Highway.

That 5-year-old is Holden Thomas, and on Saturday dozens of people gathered at his elementary school to pray for him and his family.

On Wednesday we discovered that community members were doing more than just praying for the family, people are advocating for change.

Greene County Commissioner Brad Peters said right after the crash happened last week, people reached out to him with their concerns about the intersection of the Asheville Highway and Debusk Road.

One day later, Peters drafted this letter to the First Tennessee Development District, hoping it would then make it’s way to the state level:

“January 26, 2018

Re: Request for Road Safety Audit – S.R. 70 South (Asheville Highway) and DeBusk Road, Greene County

Mr. Davis,

On behalf of the Greene County Commission I would like to make a formal request for a Road Safety Audit at the intersection of State Route 70 South (Asheville Highway) and DeBusk Road. The intersection is shown on the attached map at approximately the 12.2 mile mark of Asheville Highway.

As background to the request, DeBusk Road approaches SR 70 S at an approximate 45 degree angle, and has long been a safety concern in the community because of the sight distance issue this configuration creates, as well as the additional maneuvering required to turn onto DeBusk Road while traveling north on Asheville Highway. The danger became evident again yesterday, when a Greene County resident traveling with two young children was involved in an accident at the referenced location (see attached article from the Greeneville Sun).

Anything you can do to expedite this request would me most appreciated.

Years before Commissioner Peters wrote that letter, Sheriff Hankins said he reached out to the state about his concerns along the Asheville Highway.

“I really do believe if we lower that speed limit, it could save lives…there is definitely grounds for something to be done there,” Hankins said.

It’s a part of the highway that runs right by John Price’s neighborhood.

“You pull out, you look and it’s clear, soon as you get completely in the lane, you look in your rearview mirror, and somebody is on your tail,” Price said.

We tested it out ourselves, driving out of Price’s neighborhood on Tamara Court, turning onto Asheville Highway, and found there were significant blind spots.

We also reached out to TDOT officials who sent us this e-mail Wednesday:

Speed Study on SR-70 in Greene County
TDOT Traffic does not have a speed request or study for the area near SR-70 and Tamara Court and Debusk Drive.  This area is outside the City boundary in Greene County and TDOT maintains the speed limits.   The speed limit is 55 mph near Tamara Court but changes to 45 before Debusk Drive.  We will contact the Sheriff and Greene County to discuss the posted speeds and future studies.
 
Past Crash Studies
Tamara Court – It should be noted that the Tamara Court intersection is roughly 1 mile south of Debusk Drive and has been studied in December of 2017 due to a request from Greene County through our Office of Community Transportation.  TDOT Traffic then conducted a field review which found that this street connection had limited sight distance due to a retaining wall constructed for the subdivision.  We will coordinate with Greene County about possible corrective action for sight distance as well as review other opportunities like intersection warning signs.
Debusk Drive – TDOT has no past studies or requests here to my knowledge.  We will conduct a field study at the location to determine if additional signage or other measures could be taken.  Our office will also contact both the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and the Greene County Highway Department to discuss this route and options.

Sheriff Hankins told us that’s all he’s asking for, hoping changes can soon be made to this part of the Asheville Highway.

“The state needs to look into it further than what they have, and I believe they will,” Hankins said.

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