Note: This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. March 14.
Hoping to improve safety, state officials plan to install a stoplight west of Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the intersection of State Route 95 and Bethel Valley Road.
The stoplight and other geometric improvements have been endorsed by Johnny O. Moore, U.S. Department of Energy manager at the ORNL Site Office.
“This intersection poses safety problems for the general public, as well as employees of ORNL, and these proposed improvements would be greatly appreciated,” Moore said in a Feb. 6 letter to Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson.
The project could cost $200,000. The Tennessee Department of Transportation would fund it through the Federal Highway Administration Highway Safety Project. Oak Ridge City Engineer Steve Byrd said this type of project qualifies for 100 percent federal funding.
On Monday, the Oak Ridge City Council approved an agreement that would make the city responsible for maintenance after the stoplight is built. The annual maintenance cost for the city is expected to be about $1,500.
DOE would provide power to the traffic signal through ORNL.
Byrd said ORNL has been working with TDOT to improve safety at the intersection. Watson told Council members on Monday that there are a significant number of vehicles turning left off Bethel Valley Road and onto SR 95, headed to Lenoir City, at about 5 p.m. on weekdays.
“In 2012, TDOT reviewed the intersection and determined that vehicle crashes were occurring due to insufficient traffic control devices, combined with heavy turning movements during peak traffic periods,” Byrd said. “TDOT performed a traffic study and determined that a traffic signal and other geometric improvements on SR 95 are needed to improve capacity and safety. The geometric improvements include a right-turn deceleration lane from SR 95 onto Bethel Valley Road.”
Byrd said the Oak Ridge municipal staff worked with TDOT to ensure that several concerns were addressed, resulting in several more traffic control measures:
- a traffic signal flashing warning beacon on the southbound downgrade approach to the intersection to provide advance warning of the traffic signal,
- vehicle radar detection system in lieu of pavement loop detection to minimize signal maintenance, and
- a battery backup system to the electric power source provided by ORNL.
TDOT plans to put the project out for bids in May, and construction could take six months, once a bid has been approved.
The Oak Ridge City Council meeting started at 7 p.m. Monday in the Municipal Building Courtroom. See the agenda here.