CENTERBURG — Centerburg Village Council members might not have gotten the results they wanted, but a recently completed traffic study does offer some alternatives to the speed and congestion on West Main Street/US 36.
Gina Balsamo, traffic engineer with Carpenter Marty, presented the study results at council’s July 17 meeting. The estimated cost to implement all of Carpenter Marty’s recommendations, which include a continuous two-way left turn lane and pedestrian improvements, is $4.8 million.
“There are some lower-cost ideas that we can do,” Balsamo said.
“We’re not going to scrape up $4.8 million and do the whole shebang at once,” Village Administrator Teri Wise said. “We’ll take this report back to the safety committee and divide it into smaller projects.”
Wise said the village can also stack grants together to complete the projects, but that requires a master plan to apply for the grants. One funding source Wise said looks promising is a Safe Routes to School grant; however, that requires a school plan and work on that is at a standstill.
“I think we have a lot of validation to get that grant, so I would like to move forward,” she said.
The study evaluated four areas of concern between Preston Street and the health and wellness center near Lytle Road:
•Access (curb cuts)
Speed along the Preston Street-Lytle Road corridor is the concern council members most frequently cite, with several voicing a suggestion of 35 mph along the entire corridor.
Leaving town headed south, the 35 mph gives way to 45 mph and then 55 mph just north of Wilson Road. Coming into town from the south, the 55 mph slows to 45 mph at Wilson Road and 35 mph at Twist ‘n shake.
At the high school, the school zone posts a speed limit of 20 mph with flashing lights during arrival and dismissal times. The traffic study showed drivers slow for the school zone but still go faster than 20 mph during arrival/dismissal times.
The report highlights three options:
•Maintain current speed zones
•Extend 55 mph zone to edge of commercial businesses, then 45 mph to Preston Street
•Extend 55 mph to current 35 mph, essentially eliminating 45 mph zone
Balsamo said Carpenter Marty recommends retaining the current speed zones, noting that the issue from a safety perspective is not necessarily with fast drivers, it is the difference in speeds. She acknowledged that is not what council wants to hear.
“You want your posted speed limit to be what drivers naturally feel is appropriate,” she explained, adding that options two and three do not meet what council wants, either. “Unless the character of that road or commercial area changes or becomes more dense — then you can consider doing another study.”
The report states the school speed zone in the middle of the corridor adds to the perception of inconsistent speeds. However, if the flashers aren’t flashing, there is nothing to tell drivers when the 20 mph is in effect. Balsamo recommends installing an additional sign on the school speed limit signs indicating when the 20 mph is in effect.
“I think the low-cost idea of adding that sign could go a long way toward fixing that,” Balsamo said.
The study noted that the many access drives between Preston Street and Lytle Road result in safety and operational issues. As parcels develop or redevelop, recommended improvements include:
•Remove or consolidate accesses to provide a maximum of two accesses per parcel by providing cross-access between properties or shared-access driveways
•Align access points with those on the opposite side of US 36; if they cannot be aligned, place them in such a way that left turns entering the properties do not overlap
•Restrict widths of accesses to match ODOT standards, especially for those with extra-wide driveways or accesses along the entire frontage of a parcel. Reducing widths narrows where vehicles can enter/exit and cuts down on conflict points.
•Ensure driveways are long enough to allow for a vehicle queue; this is specifically true for Twist ‘n Shake, where cars line up on US 36.
Turn lanes relate to the access points. Carpenter Marty analyzed three zones:
•Between Dollar General and the auto parts store
•Between AMVETS Post 59 and Willis Street
•Between Factory Street and Preston Street
Analysis showed that a left turn lane is warranted at the high school driveway and Willis Street. A left-turn lane exists at the high school.
Because the high school and Willis Street warrant a left-turn lane and all three zones meet two of ODOT’s four criteria for a two-way left turn lane (TWLTL), council could consider installing a TWLTL entire the entire corridor from Preston Street to the high school.
Pedestrian access to Hometown Market and other businesses along the US 36 corridor has long been a focus of council and is in accordance with the Knox County Active Transportation Plan that council supports. The only marked pedestrian crossing is at US 36 and Preston Street.
The traffic study recommends extending the sidewalk/shared-use path on the east side of US 36 to the Centerburg Health and Wellness Center. It also recommends adding three new crossings: south of Willis Street, at the northern Home Town Market driveway, and at the wellness center.
The study also recommends installing flashing pedestrian-activated beacons at the crosswalks.
Carpenter Marty collected speed data at the US 36-Preston Street intersection on May 23, the day Centerburg Elementary School was closed due to the solar panel electrical fire. However, streetlight data was also used to complement the physical review.
Streetlight data was also used to evaluate peak hour and turning movement volumes at all access points and minor street intersections along the corridor. Speed data was collected during non-peak hours at the wellness center, Wilson Road, the high school, Centerburg Church of Christ, and Twist ‘n Shake.
The goal of monitoring during non-peak hours is to determine free-flow speeds: the speeds they feel comfortable driving in the area.
Additional speed data was collected at the high school on May 22 during arrival and May 24 during dismissal. Seniors were no longer in attendance, but the report states that is not expected to have affected speed data.