Temporary closure on Rutgers Avenue starts Sunday

A project to improve the city’s sewer system will require a temporary closure on busy Rutgers Avenue in central Oak Ridge starting Sunday.

Rutgers Avenue connects South Illinois Avenue and Oak Ridge Turnpike, and it runs between the Woodland neighborhood and J.C. Penney and Walmart.

A city press release said a gravity sewer line running from east to west under the north end of Rutgers Avenue must be relocated as part of the rehabilitation work. [Read more…]

More than 8,000 cubic feet of natural gas leaked into former Kroger on Tuesday

Kroger Gas Leak and ORFD and ORUD

Businesses around the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue were evacuated on Tuesday afternoon after a gas leak was reported.

 

If it had exploded, the 8,500 cubic feet of natural gas that leaked into the former Kroger grocery store on South Illinois Avenue on Tuesday could have had a devastating impact on the shopping center and blown out windows in nearby businesses, possibly even across the street, a city official said Wednesday.

“Had it exploded, we would have been on national news,” Oak Ridge Fire Department Chief Darryl Kerley said. “It could have been devastating for all the businesses in that complex.”

Authorities suspect that the gas slowly flowed into the 30,000-square-foot grocery store starting Tuesday morning through an uncapped gas line that was once connected to an oven.

By the time emergency workers responded to a report of a gas leak on Tuesday afternoon, Kerley said, “the store was almost completely filled with a dangerous concentration of natural gas.” [Read more…]

Three possibly injured after truck crashes into Waffle House

Truck Crash at Waffle House

Three people inside the restaurant had possible injuries and one person was taken to the hospital after a Ford Ranger pickup truck crashed into the side of the Waffle House on South Illinois Avenue just after noon Friday.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 3 p.m.

Three people inside the restaurant had possible injuries and one of them was taken to the hospital after a pickup truck crashed into the side of the Waffle House on South Illinois Avenue just after noon Friday, police officers and workers said.

Emergency workers also checked out the male driver at the scene, but he declined to be taken to the hospital, authorities said.

The crash, which punched a hole in the wall behind the grill, occurred at about 12:08 p.m. Friday. The cause wasn’t immediately known, the Oak Ridge Police Department said.

There were reports that there had been a small explosion at the grill, but that hadn’t been confirmed, the ORPD said.

Several employees and customers inside the Waffle House reported hearing a boom or explosion.

“It sounded like it was blowing up,” server Deborah Driggers said. “All I remember is screaming, ‘Everyone out because we’ve got gas.'” [Read more…]

City Council to consider Friendship Bell grant app, Woodland rezonings

Friendship Bell Housing Demolition

Workers began demolishing the International Friendship Bell structure during the last week of July. (Photo by Bill Moore Jr.)

 

The Oak Ridge City Council will consider applying for a $100,000 grant application to help rebuild the Friendship Bell House in Alvin K. Bissell Park, and members will also consider a preliminary plan and re-zonings that would allow a retail development on 2.29 acres along South Illinois Avenue between Aldi grocery and Weigel’s gas station and convenience store.

If Council approves, the city would apply for a Friendship Bell grant from the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund, which supports projects that “contribute to international cultural exchange and international goodwill.” The city is requesting $100,000 to match $50,000 from the Oak Ridge Capital Projects Fund and $50,000 from private and community contributions and donations. The grant application outlines a 50/50 match requirement if the request is approved.

A February inspection determined that the 65-70 percent of the wooden support beams in the bell house were compromised and showed substantial deterioration, Oak Ridge Recreation and Parks Department Director Josh Collins said in a memo to City Manager Mark S. Watson. [Read more…]

Council considers Clark Center Park, ORHS stoplight, Woodland development

Clark Center Park Water View

A view of Melton Hill Lake near a boat ramp and between two picnic areas at Clark Center Park in south Oak Ridge.

The Oak Ridge City Council on Monday night will consider the start of negotiations over the future of Clark Center Park, a new stoplight on Oak Ridge Turnpike in front of the high school, and changes, including rezonings, that could allow a small commercial development near Aldi grocery on South Illinois Avenue.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday, August 11, in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.

A resolution to be considered tonight would allow Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson to discuss the future of Clark Center Park with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office. DOE-ORO  has said it wants to transfer the park to the city at no cost as long as it remains a recreational park asset for the public.

The Oak Ridge Office now spends about $300,000 per year to maintain the park. One of the questions for city officials is whether Oak Ridge can afford to take over the 80-acre park, which is in south Oak Ridge on Melton Hill Lake. Also known as Carbide Park, it includes two ball fields, two large picnic areas, a small playground, a boat ramp, restrooms, fishing trails, and a beach. It also includes access to the Gallaher Bend Greenway. [Read more…]

Police officer, two others taken to hospital after Sunday afternoon crash

South Illinois Avenue Police Car Crash

An Oak Ridge police officer driving a police car and two occupants of a second car were taken to the hospital after a Sunday afternoon crash at South Illinois and Rutgers avenues.

 

An Oak Ridge police officer driving a police car and two occupants of a second car were taken to the hospital after a Sunday afternoon crash at South Illinois and Rutgers avenues.

The two-car crash occurred at about 2:12 p.m. Sunday, the Oak Ridge Police Department said in a statement.

The officer, the only occupant of the police vehicle, was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries, ORPD Capt. Charles R. Smith said in the statement. [Read more…]

Railroad tracks removed from South Illinois, Emory Valley

South Illinois Avenue Railroad Track Removal

A work crew from Rogers Group removes unused railroad tracks from South Illinois Avenue just south of Lafayette Drive and Scarboro Road on Saturday night. After the tracks were removed, the railroad crossing was repaved, and the road reopened on Sunday.

 

Note: This story was last updated at 6:30 p.m.

Unused railroad tracks that crossed Briarcliff Avenue, Emory Valley Road, and South Illinois Avenue were removed on Thursday and Saturday night.

Railroad company CSX split the traffic control costs with the city and paid to remove the tracks, Oak Ridge Public Works Director Gary Cinder said. In exchange, the city agreed to repave the roadways as part of street maintenance. The crossing lights were removed as well so that commercial vehicles, including school buses, no longer have to stop at the abandoned crossings and, in the case of school buses and other vehicles that carry children, open and close their doors before proceeding.

The project has been in the works for two years.

“We’re thrilled to finally get to this stage,” Cinder said last week. “It’s been a long time coming.” [Read more…]

South Illinois to be closed Saturday night as railroad tracks removed

South Illinois Avenue Railroad Crossing

A section of South Illinois Avenue will be closed Saturday night as a city contractor removes the abandoned railroad tracks that cross the busy roadway just south of the intersection with Lafayette Drive and Scarboro Road.

 

A section of South Illinois Avenue will be closed Saturday night as a city contractor removes the abandoned railroad tracks that cross the busy roadway just south of the intersection with Lafayette Drive and Scarboro Road.

The work by Rogers Group Inc. should be complete by Sunday, a city press release said.

Workers will start installing traffic control devices to close the road and divert traffic to the detour at about 6 p.m. Saturday. The road, also known as State Route 62, or SR62, will be closed at roughly 8 p.m., the press release said.

“To minimize the inconvenience to the public, this work will take place overnight,” it said. [Read more…]

More development possible on South Illinois Avenue

South Purdue Land Use Plan

The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission on Thursday will consider amending the Land Use Plan to change the designation on parcels 39 and 40 above from residential to business. The parcels are next to Aldi grocery (Parcel 43 at right) and between South Purdue Avenue (white road center right) and South Illinois Avenue (yellow road at bottom). The Planning Commission could consider rezoning the property in July. The new Weigels gas station and convenience store is off the map to the left on Parcel 41. Potomac Circle is at top left. (Image courtesy State of Tennessee)

 

The Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission on Thursday will consider amending the city’s Land Use Plan to change the designation of more than two acres on busy South Illinois Avenue from residential to business, possibly to allow a small multi-tenant building to be constructed.

The two parcels being considered are sandwiched between two other recent developments—Weigels gas station and convenience store on one side and Aldi grocery on the other—and also near the new Aubrey’s restaurant, Panera Bread, Ole Ben Franklin Motors, and Bojangles’ restaurant.

A Nashville development group has a contract on the property, Oak Ridge Community Development Director Kathryn Baldwin said Monday. [Read more…]

Police: Suspect sets TV, computer monitor on fire in Walmart parking lot

Walmart Parking Lot Fire

An unknown suspect set several items on fire in the Walmart parking lot in Oak Ridge on Saturday evening. The items included a 50-inch flat-screen television and a computer monitor. (Photo by Jennifer Sampson)

 

An unknown suspect set several items on fire in the Walmart parking lot in Oak Ridge on Saturday evening, authorities said.

The arson included an LG 50-inch flat-screen television, a computer monitor and modem, three computer hard drives, and two Walmart DVDs, Oak Ridge Police Department Officer Sherrill L. Selby said in an incident report.

The fire was reported at about 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Walmart, which is on South Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge. Black smoke billowed up from the center of the parking lot until the Oak Ridge Fire Department, which has a fire station nearby, arrived to extinguish the flames. The blaze didn’t appear be set near any vehicles, and there were no reports of injuries.

The police report did not include information on why the suspect might have started the fire.

More information will be added as it becomes available.

More than 400 lose power after car crashes into utility pole on Lafayette

Lafayette Drive Utility Pole Crash

A car crashed into a utility pole on Lafayette Drive early Monday afternoon, knocking out power to 441 customers.

More than 400 customers lost power early Monday afternoon after a car crashed into a utility pole on Lafayette Drive, officials said.

The driver was reportedly taken to a medical center to be examined but appeared to have escaped major injuries, officials said.

The crash, which snapped a utility pole at an intersection with Midway Lane, was reported to the Oak Ridge Electric Department at about 1:20 p.m.

The Electric Department reported that 441 customers lost power. Most were in the Woodland neighborhood along the so-called “P” streets and Quincy Avenue. [Read more…]

Clarksville woman taken to UT hospital after driver falls asleep, car rolls

A Clarksville woman was taken by ambulance to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville early Sunday after the driver of a car in which she was riding fell asleep, and the vehicle rolled, went airborne, and struck a series of objects on South Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge, including a tree and utility pole, authorities said.

The 2011 Toyota Camry four-door sedan was headed north in the right-hand lane of South Illinois Avenue at about 3:30 a.m. Sunday when it first struck a right-hand curb at Centrifuge Way, the former Boeing Road, an Oak Ridge Police Department crash report said. The car then entered a median, rolled over onto its passenger side, struck a utility pole and an embankment, and became airborne, the report said. The vehicle then struck a second curb, became airborne again, struck a tree and embankment at the same time, and came to rest at the bottom of a second embankment. [Read more…]