JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Boones Creek area of Interstate 26 has been the scene of two deadly crashes within the past week. Drivers told News Channel 11 they are concerned about safety along this stretch of the interstate.
The first of a string of serious crashes was Nov. 11 and resulted in the death of a juvenile.
The second fatal crash occurred Tuesday. The Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) announced Wednesday a man died as a result of that crash. This crash closed west bound traffic.
Those crashes and others have led to traffic back-ups and delays for commuters.
“I think it’s scary,” said driver Rachel Richmond. “I think for me, [the interstate] gone from being stressful to being scary, so I only get on it if I have to.”
Drivers like Angelia Gillis no longer take the interstate. Eighteen months ago, Gillis totaled her car in a four-car pile-up at the Boones Creek entrance to the interstate.
“I’ve had back pain since, and I’m still being treated for that,” said Gillis. “So, it’s just a highly congested area where it is scary.”
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the JCPD oversees the areas of the interstate between Eastern Star Road (exit 10) and Okolona Road in Carter County (exit 27).
When asked to answer questions about the stretch of the interstate where two fatal crashes occurred, the JCPD declined, saying those investigations are still ongoing.
The police department urges people to practice safe driving habits.
“Well, it’s just the rule of the road,” said JCPD Captain Tim Hensley. “If we drive safely, if we pay attention, follow those speed limits. They’re there for a reason.”
Some of those good habits include avoiding driving distracted, conducting proper lane changes, not following other cars too closely and obeying the speed limit.
“The average citation issues in Johnson City on the interstate, people are traveling in excess of 23 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, which is a 60 in most places,” Hensley said.
The police department added the local population has grown, so more people are on the road. According to the JCPD, in a study conducted in February, over 70,000 cars traveled between the Boones Creek and State of Franklin Road exits over a 24 24-hour period.
Both Richmond and Gillis believe if people slowed down, this would help address the dangers in the Boones Creek area. Richmond said she believes it would help if the interstate was widened.
At this time, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) does not have any bids out to expand I-26 or I-81 in East Tennessee.