Traffic Light & Intersection gets nod from Budget Committee

Safer Intersection Alignment In Hands of County Commission Tonight

The Jefferson County Full Commission will make a funding decision regarding the funding level of the turn lane improvements necessary for the traffic signal light project at the intersection of Dumplin Valley and Hwy 92. Tennessee Department of Transportation has provided funding for the signal light via a Safety Grant, however improvements to the turn lanes onto Dumplin Valley are necessary before the project can move forward. The Jefferson County School System sought aid from the Town of Dandridge in requesting a signal light from TDOT. Because the intersection falls within the city limits of Dandridge, the Town had to be the requesting body. TDOT informed stakeholders in the project that the intersection does meet the criteria needed to qualify for a signal light, as it far exceeds the crash statistics for the State. TDOT presented a proposal for improvements that are needed to Dumplin Valley, at an estimated cost of $200,000.

The Town of Dandridge requested funding assistance from the County and School System in the form of a funding split. Because funding the improvements was questionable and the grant money had already been assigned for the signal light project, TDOT returned to the Town of Dandridge with lesser options for improvements that were less costly. Of the two lesser options that were presented, TDOT felt that only one was truly viable-an option that had a projected cost of $100,000 however did not align the lanes on Dumplin Valley. The Town of Dandridge initially approved funding for the lesser option ($100,000) citing concerns that the Jefferson County Commission would not commit funding for the $200,000 original proposal. The Jefferson County Budget Committee met and overwhelmingly voted to approve funding half of the $200,000 original proposal. The Committee expressed concerns, which were shared by some members of the Town of Dandridge Board of Mayor and Aldermen, that any lesser proposal would not align lanes and could be an added hazard. Because the road is traveled by a large number of inexperienced drivers, the wear on the road with other options could cause problems, the cost to do any adjustments at a later time could be very costly and the liability of the intersection, the Budget Committee found that the cost difference between the original TDOT proposal and the lesser option was justified. The Budget Committee approved taking $100,000 from School System Fund Balance to pay for their shared cost in the project, upon approval from the school board and with a like funding commitment from the Town of Dandridge. The School Board voted unanimously to Approve the funding of the project. Director of Transportation, Maintenance and Capitol Projects Phagan had confirmed to the Budget Committee that the original option presented by TDOT was his preferred option due to the inexperience of the drivers that heavily travel that intersection.

The Town of Dandridge is awaiting confirmation from the Full Commission Body before committing to a higher funding level, however indications are that they, too, will approve funding of half of the $200,000 option. During a recent meeting the Town of Dandridge was establishing avenues for a $100,000 contribution to the project. The Full Commission will vote on the project and funding level this week. The recommendation for funding will come from the Budget Committee, with the approval of the School Board. Stakeholders agree that the Town of Dandridge will assume responsibility for the project ongoing and that the funding assistance is limited to the scope of the original TDOT proposal.

Source: K. Depew, News Director