A traffic engineer agreed that the cheapest possible solution that might prevent accidents at the intersection of North Ocoee and Eighth Street was the one suggested by a Cleveland City Councilman.
Alan Childers, director emeritus of Transportation and Traffic for the consulting engineering firm of Cannon and Cannon of Knoxville, said a proposal raised by At-Large City Councilman George Poe, “wouldn’t hurt and it could potentially help some, but how much, I don’t know.”
Councilman Poe suggested converting the left lanes in both the north and southbound directions into a left turn lanes only. The southbound roadway would not widen to two through lanes until after the Eighth Street intersection. The councilman said that using the left lanes exclusively for left turns would act to keep traffic moving at a slower pace. It would also function as a stacking lane for vehicles waiting to turn west onto Eight Street. Under his plan, curbing would separate the left and right lanes in both directions.
“Obviously, any solution must effectively address that issue or it is not really a solution,” Mr. Childers said.
He said there would still be a sight distance issue with cars in the turn lane. Roundabouts address that issue, but carry a probable price tag of $800,000. Roundabouts would likely require additional property depending on its size and location.
“Each alternative has plusses and minuses and you all are going to have to decide how to proceed,” he said.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation must approve any remedy because Ocoee Street is a state road.
Mini roundabouts are still experimental in the United States though they have been successfully used in Europe. Mini roundabouts are designed for trucks to use the central island when making left turns. They are designed for a smaller daily volume of traffic than the estimated 18,000 vehicles that pass through the intersection.
Mr. Childers said the perfect size would be a 140-foot roundabout. The monument and the statue of the Confederate soldier would have to be located inside the circle and it would affect some private property. A 120-foot roundabout centered in the intersection would work and would not affect any private property. The ballpark cost estimate would be $600,000 to $800,000.
Mayor Tom Rowland asked Mr. Childers if Councilman Poe’s suggestion would help, “Wouldn’t that be the best approach to see if it does help?”
Prohibiting left turns from Ocoee Street would also be inexpensive. In that scenario, through traffic traveling east and west on Eighth would be unaffected. Ten left turns was the peak from the northbound left turn.
He said, “I don’t think northbound is a problem. Southbound was in the 70s and when school is in session it could be 80 or 90. If you do that, my fear is they’ll turn at 11th Street and it looks like it is already a bit congested. If you eliminate left turns, you may end up with more of a problem at 11th Street.”
The consensus among Council members was that Councilman Poe’s suggestion would be the most cost effective, it would not take anyone’s yards, it would not require moving the monument and it would not hurt the situation.
The city requested the consulting firm to give them some ideas about how to reduce the number of accidents at Eighth and North Ocoee streets. An April 25 accident toppled the Steed-Hardwick-Marshall memorial monument. The century-old landmark was sent to Baston Monument in Elberton, Georgia, for repairs.
According to city staff reports, Travelers Insurance sent a property appraiser to the monument because the company’s claims software was not capable of estimating that type of property damage. After inspecting the damage, a report from the appraiser to the adjuster stated the estimate from Baston Monument seemed reasonable. Baston is repairing the obelisk. There is no estimated time of repair or when it will be returned to Cleveland.
“The primary issue at this intersection is the high number of crashes, especially right angle crashes, which tend to be the more severe crashes,” Mr. Childers said. “I went back five years and over that time there appears to have been 30 right angle crashes.”
Twenty-four of those right angle crashes involved vehicles pulling from what he termed as the “no man’s land,” area between the intersections.
“The bottom line is 80 percent (of the crashes) involved this area here,” he said, pointing to the median formed by the North Ocoee Street split. “That’s a high, high percentage.”
The crash rate at the intersection is about 5.6 times the statewide average for similar intersections. It might be eligible for a spot safety grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
One option Mr. Childers explained was a lead-lag turn signal, which Councilman Bill Estes said could not handle the traffic volume.
“Looking at the numbers, it is potentially doable, I’ll put it that way,” Mr. Childers said. “It’s something that could be looked at further. I’m not recommending it, I just want to tell you about it.”
He showed Council members a restricted turn configuration, which would force Eighth Street traffic to make a right turn and then a U-turn. That design would not accommodate trucks and it would take up much of the history branch library’s parking lot.
He said the present intersection is configured as two very closely spaced intersections, which is a major factor in the crashes. The primary issue is that left turn vehicles on Ocoee Street are obstructing the view of vehicles in “no man’s land.”