Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hot Gossip, Cold Drinks

With construction on the new traffic roundabout at the busy intersection of State Route 81, State Route 353 and Depot Street set to begin this summer, Five Points Grocery is about to become a pile of rubble.  The store officially closed its doors Sunday, March 31. 

In a town that is proud of its oldest-town-in-Tennessee architecture, Five Points is not a picturesque building, or situated in a particularly nice location, but it's been around a long time and deserves to be remembered, if only in pictures.

Since us country folk don't get many chances to drive in roundabouts (also called roundy-rounds or rotary intersections) I figured it's my civic duty to learn the proper method of navigation through these traffic-control devices. So I did what modern folk do when they have a question ... I turned to the interwebs. So here ya go, put some knowledge in your head:

A roundabout is a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is slowed and flows almost continuously in one direction around a central island to several exits onto the various intersecting roads. In a modern roundabout, entering traffic must always yield to traffic already in the circle. Elimination of the opportunity for the most deadly crashes at intersections (T-bone or perpendicular crashes) is the greatest benefit of the roundabout design.


Saying the roundabout is “absolutely safer” than a traffic light at the Five Points intersection, Steve Allen, TDOT project planning director, added that studies show there are fewer severe crashes using that type of intersection design. The absence of traffic signals keep traffic moving during slow times, Allen said. The main drawback, he said, is the public’s unfamiliarity with using roundabouts, an issue he said can be addressed by using plenty of well-placed signage.

Notice that Mr Allen dis not say "fewer crashes", he said "fewer severe crashes", just pointing that out. With a high school full of inexperienced drivers forced to use the roundabout twice a day, five days a week, and the rest of the citizenry generally being older drivers, the potential for incidents is quite large. My guess is that one of Jonesborough's finest will be stationed at the roundabout full time.

Here's an artist rendering of the proposed roundabout at the Five points intersection. Dwight Armstrong with the TDOT Project Management Office in Knoxville describes the design as a typical roundabout with a bypass lane.

The upside is that there won't be any red-light cameras installed at this intersection.

Would it be in poor taste to take bets on when the first crash in the roundabout takes place?

Maybe we should run a contest to name the roundabout !

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