Rock Crusher Road light is a change

Friday, January 22, 2010
Nathan Sires, an S&W traffic technician, works from a lift bucket to set traffic lights flashing at North Fifth Avenue and Ellington Parkway until Monday when they're to start controlling traffic flow.

Monday morning, traffic lights that have been flashing red and yellow since Tuesday at Rock Crusher Road, Ellington Parkway and North 5th Avenue are to be changing from green to yellow and then red, according to Lewisburg officials.

The intersection has been widely recognized as one of the most difficult and dangerous places to drive in Lewisburg, largely because of growing traffic on Rock Crusher Road and the commercial center to the west. An extensive campaign by local officials won permission for the light.

However, approval came in early December 2008 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation with a requirement that the city pay for the installation.

TDOT's early estimate, without analysis of the situation here, indicated the project might cost about $100,000. The city paid $82,880, according to Richard Turner, general manager of the Lewisburg Electric Service, the utility chartered separately for the city and its residents.

The campaign to get TDOT's approval for the traffic controls started four or five years ago, according to City Manager Eddie Fuller, but it was Councilman Robin Minor who pressed the issue.

Councilman Robin Minor's campaign for office in the spring of 2007 found recurring requests from residents in his Ward, so he took it on as his project.

Minor called Gov. Phil Bredesen's office, and sought assistance from state Rep. Eddie Bass and state Sen. Bill Ketron.

"Everybody told me it couldn't be done," the councilman said.

Eventually, Minor spoke with Paul Degges, the chief engineer for TDOT, and he credits support from the two local legislators.

Degges reportedly acknowledged there was one TDOT official who was delaying a decision, but Deggs countermanded that obstacle, according to discussion at the intersection on Tuesday afternoon when local leaders gathered to memorialize the illumination of traffic lights with a group photo.

As for the factors leading to the light's placement, County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said, "You can thank Wal-Mart for this."

The TDOT official who'd been holding off on approving the signals had apparently said that lights wouldn't be installed in front of a business, Liggett said. The traffic light just uphill of the new one at Rock Crusher Road is in front of Wal-Mart, a KFC restaurant, and several other businesses.

The addition of an Ascend Federal Credit Union and a Murphy gas filling station on the west side of Rock Crusher Road just north of the intersection contributed to the increased traffic at the intersection.

Right at the intersection, there are "more than three" businesses, Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart said.

Furthermore, Deggs' analysis of the number of wrecks at the intersection showed there were more than what the city reported, the local officials said Tuesday.

"The light is badly needed," Turner said.

"But," the LES manager continued, "it will take a lot of getting used to."

To help familiarize motorists with the fact that there's a traffic control light at the intersection, Turner said, "We've got some signs going up to say 'Do not block intersection.'

"And, we're going to illuminate this intersection some more," he said, pointing to a new street light just east of the intersection and across from the BP station.

Inside the BP station, serving customers that came in and left quickly were Neil and Dave Patel, brothers who co-manage the BP station and say that BP stands for Brothers Patel.

As for the new traffic lights, Dave Patel says, "It's a good thing. They needed it a long time ago." Neil Patel said, "It's about time they put it on."