ROGERSVILLE — City leaders are hoping the state can come up with a plan to improve safety at a Highway 11-W intersection where two fatalities have occurred since April.
“Bloody 11-W” was built in 1929 as a 110-mile, narrow, winding two-lane highway that connects Bristol, Va., with Knoxville, and it earned its nickname thanks to the high volume of horrific fatalities that took place there over the decades.
Although it’s flatter, straighter and mostly four-lane today, 11-W is still the location of numerous bad wrecks every year, especially in Hawkins County.
The intersection that concerned the Rogersville BMA at Tuesday’s meeting is at West Main Street, where:
* On April 11, a Hawkins County man was killed when a Chevy Blazer allegedly pulled onto 11-W into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
* On Oct. 19, a Rogersville man was killed when he pulled onto 11-W into the path of a tractor-trailer.
Alderman Craig Kirkpatrick told the BMA Tuesday he has received numerous calls from concerned local residents asking the city to do something to make that intersection safer.
A few ideas that have been tossed around include reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45, adding a four-way red light, increasing police patrols and closing the highway access from the north side of 11-W at the Sugar Tree subdivision.
West Main Street is also state Route 346, and City Attorney Bill Phillips noted that Rogersville doesn’t have the authority to make any changes on 11-W or at that intersection.
“What you can do is request the state Department of Transportation to do a traffic study and make recommendations about that area and what they think would be best,” Phillips said. “They’ve got traffic engineers who know that stuff — whether it’s close it, traffic light or whatever.”
Rogersville Police Department Chief Doug Nelson told the Times-News Wednesday the most dangerous aspect of that intersection is the curve on 11-W to the west. That makes it difficult to see eastbound 11-W traffic, especially for vehicles pulling out of Sugar Tree subdivision.
The setting sun is blinding for traffic looking westbound, which doubles the danger.
Nelson said he favors closing the Sugar Tree access and diverting that traffic to the Allison Heights highway access, where the view of oncoming traffic is better.
He said a red light might cause more wrecks than it prevents due to the downhill slope for westbound traffic and the difficulty tractor-trailers would have in stopping in time.
“Allison Heights (highway access) is only a tenth or two of a mile away, and even some residents up there have talked about closing that (Sugar Tree) intersection,” Nelson said. “It’s such a bad curve coming up from the west end. You can’t see until they get around that curve. Most of the wrecks we have it’s not somebody coming down westbound as much as it’s somebody coming up the road (eastbound).”
At the request of Alderman Mark DeWitte, the BMA will also ask TDOT to do a safety study on the intersection of Route 66-S and Broadway Street, which is a high-volume traffic area where accidents frequently take place.
Related story: No shortage of tragedy recently on Hawkins County's stretch of 11-W