Stoplight not coming soon; Situation to be assessed after project completion

NOT NOW-It will be some time before a stoplight is installed here, if ever, according to TDOT. (HORIZON file photo)

NOT NOW-It will be some time before a stoplight is installed here, if ever, according to TDOT. (HORIZON file photo)

By THOMAS P. WEAVER, HORIZON Editor

CELINA-Safety concerns about Celina’s newest and now busiest intersection continue here and the HORIZON has learned it will be some time before the situation will be addressed despite public outcry and lobbying by city mayor WIllie Kerr.

Since the recent partial opening of the new State Route (SR) 52, many residents here have voiced their opinions about the need for a full traffic signal (stoplight) at the intersection of the county’s two major thoroughfares–Highways 52 and 53, and mayor Kerr said last week “we definitely need it,” explaining he had been been working on convincing the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) it was a necessity for over a year now.

TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn told the HORIZON “in order to get a traffic signal installed by the State, a location has to meet certain warrants,” and explained her department’s director of planning “has promised Mayor Kerr that TDOT traffic engineering will conduct a traffic count” study “after the SR-52 project is done to see if the location meets warrants for a traffic signal,” meaning no stoplight will be installed soon.

“It’s not that we are doing nothing, but we will not install an unwarranted signal at this location at this time,” Flynn said.  “Upon completion of the project, a study will be conducted to see if this area meets the proper warrants for a full signal.

“We will determine what steps, if any, to take next upon completion of the study.”

Flynn said last week TDOT was “very optimistic that the project will be completed early–possibly before the end of this year, 2013,” but that still means travelers here will have to negotiate the intersection with no stoplight for several more months before the study takes place.

“The permanent signage that is part of the project has not yet been installed,” Flynn explained.  “When this is done, there will be additional signage in all four directions around the intersection.

“In the meantime, we plan to install additional interim signage to alleviate any confusion at this intersection.”

She also explained new flashing beacons with “12-inch LED heads with visors” had already been installed “as shown in the original construction plans,” which are “considerably more visible than the previous flashing beacon.”

She did say the same intersection, long before the new SR-52 was added to it, “warranted a signal some 10-15 years ago, but the traffic signal was turned down at that time because the local government felt that they could not assume the associated maintenance costs,” but explained now that the new construction “will add capacity” with the addition of lanes, “the location will no longer meet warrants for a full signal,” making a new study necessary.

She also explained “any traffic signal that may be installed in the future by the State would be turned over to the local government when installation is completed, and the local government would take ownership of the signal and be wholly responsible for its operation, maintenance, and all associated costs.”

Shanky access part of the plan
CELINA-Two lanes of the new four-lane Highway 52 remain closed due to the fact a new access to the old portion of State Route (SR) 52 extending from James White Road down Shanky Branch to SR-53 is now under construction–which is welcomed news to residents of the area.

TDOT spokesperson Jennifer Flynn ended speculation over whether or not the old portion of the highway would have access to the new road by saying “yes, there will be access to Old Hwy. 52 (up and down Shanky) when the project is complete,” when posed the question by the HORIZON.

She also explained the access “will be two ways” with traffic being allowed to exit the new four-lane SR-52 down the branch and traffic also being allowed to intersect the new highway heading east towards Livingston.

Shanky Branch is currently a dead-end road and Flynn explained it was only open to “local traffic only” with no “through traffic” while “grading and blasting operations north of existing SR-52 (Shanky Branch) to south of SR-53” are being performed in preparation of the new access.

THP Captain on new road patrol
CELINA-As reported last week, TDOT is currently calling the partial opening of the new SR-52 road a “traffic shift” and said due to the fact the project was still under construction, “the speed limit will remain 45 miles per hour (mph) until the project is complete,” a limit to which the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) is paying close attention, according to THP Captain R.C. Christian.

With only two of the four lanes being used for two-way traffic at this time and construction ongoing, TDOT explained the reduced speed limit remains necessary despite the road being long and mostly straight, making it inviting to travel faster and hard to maintain a pace under the limit allowed by law.

“Anytime a new road opens we make it a point to do our best to make drivers aware and encourage them to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings,” Christian said.  “Our presence there helps their awareness–when they see the patrols, they slow down and pay attention.

“We are taking a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach in hopes of saving lives.”

Christian said TDOT set the 45 mph speed limit, but it was his agency’s responsibility to enforce it.

“We don’t set the speed limits,” he explained, “but we are monitoring it closely at this time with increased activity on the new road, especially since it is still under construction and due to the fact we’ve already had a fatal accident.

“Our main goal is to keep people safe and we are addressing the situation with increased patrols to help people transition to traveling this unfamiliar route.”