As reported previously in Metro Pulse, Sequoyah Hills homeowners living along Kingston Pike have been working to persuade the city to reduce the speed of traffic on this major thoroughfare. Traffic enforcement officers from Knoxville Police Department, the city's engineers, and the homeowners agree that there are many possible ways to do that—from speed-monitoring "smart" signs to a lower posted speed limit (currently 45 mph) to increased patrolling—and the homeowners seem open to just about anything that would make it safer to get in and out of their driveways.
On Wednesday, June 24, Sequoyah homeowners Sandy Gillespie, Chuck Burks, Dennis Owen, and Elizabeth Farr met to discuss next steps with city representatives, including Director of Public Works Steve King, Director of Policy and Communications Bill Lyons, City Council members Bob Becker and Barbara Pelot, and Police Chief Sterling Owen, Capt. David Rausch, and Lt. Eve Thomas of KPD.
"I was impressed with the number of people who made time to attend," says Gillespie, who is president of the Kingston Pike/Sequoyah Hills association. "We were there for almost two hours, and nobody seemed to be trying to cut it short.
"They did not rule out lowering the speed limit, but that didn't get much of a push. No definite decisions were made. The city is going to get some price info on the smart units. They will also find out if the threshold is adjustable, and whether there's been a study in Knoxville to determine their lasting effectiveness. Some people wonder if drivers just get used to being flashed at and go back to their old habits."
"Engineering committed to doing some review in that area," says Lyons. "It's complicated. It's a major route and this has been an ongoing concern. Part of the difficulty is that it's so difficult to enforce there. There's nowhere to even pull a car over if they're speeding.
"We discussed several alternatives, including lowering the speed limit and the use of smart signs."
Steve King, director of public works, says that when most people think of what's now called "traffic calming," they think of "humps and bumps."
"You'd be surprised," says King. "People have extremely strong feelings about speedbumps. But that's not an option on Kingston Pike. We try to accomplish traffic calming first and foremost with education and enforcement.
"We have a lot of concerns about that stretch of road. It's a challenge for a pedestrian to cross Kingston Pike even at one of the signalized intersections. I think the homeowners have concerns that no one on the city side can deny."
Kingston Pike, or State Route 70, is traveled by many thousands of drivers every day who do not live on that road. The challenges involved in trying to get those people to be more patient are obvious to any observer. And the need for some sort of action seemed especially obvious the evening of June 24, following the meeting at the City County Building. Between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., three accidents involving seven vehicles, two critical injuries, one hit and run, and a decapitated fire hydrant occurred on Kingston Pike between Western Plaza and Cherokee Boulevard.
"I think both sides are going to try to digest things a little bit," says Gillespie. "There will definitely be a follow-up meeting, probably within the next couple weeks."