In an effort to retrain motorists and appease the surrounding neighborhood, the city council voted last week to put in a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Walnut Bend and Walnut Creek. But in doing so, they went against the advice of the city engineer and traffic guidelines adopted by the state of Tennessee.
"I've been getting calls about that intersection for the last five years or so," Councilman Brent Taylor said earlier this week. "I had been trying to get relief for the neighbors by working through the administration, but it had been to no avail. The problem continued to fester. I realized I needed to involve the council."
When the intersection was part of the county, there was a four-way stop sign there. But after annexation, the city took out two of the signs. According to guidelines set out in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (the national traffic-control bible) and traffic volume on the streets, the intersection did not warrant a four-way stop.
"Our major concern is if we put in a four-way stop that is unwarranted, it will simply breed contempt for the device," city engineer Wain Gaskins told the council. Gaskins, who had to be called into the meeting specifically to discuss the intersection, explained that under the manual's guidelines, the street's volume simply did not warrant a four-way stop. Instead, the city engineer recommended a two-phase $150,000 project that would first reduce the width of the road from 40 to 20 feet to the tune of $40,000. The second $110,000 phase would be to construct a traffic circle there.
"We decided in committee we wanted stop signs," said Councilman Barbara Swearengen Holt. "Stop signs should suffice. I can't in clear conscience approve $40,000."
In the end, it seemed to come down to simple economics.
"It's unusual that the council will do what it did and take a different action than that recommended by the city engineer," said Taylor. "That's why there was so much discussion about it. It's not a function of the council to decide where to put traffic lights or stop signs. We didn't want to set a precedent, but everybody recognized it was an area that needed relief. And relief could be gotten for less than $150,000."