There’s a well-known intersection in Oak Ridge where five roads come together. Natives refer to this crash-maker as “malfunction junction.” I recently read on social media that it may soon be replaced with a roundabout, and this news generated a stream of negative comments. It seems that Oak Ridgers are sentimental about the intersection. One even claimed to have “fond” memories of an accident there.
This tells me that people become attached to the iconic features of their day-to-day lives and will fight to hang on to them, even if they are inefficient or dangerous.
At the same time, it’s hard to imagine going back once a major road project is completed. Who remembers what it was like when there was a three-way stop at Concord Road and Northshore Drive, or when Campbell Station Road was just three lanes?
Let’s face it – road projects are hard. They alter familiar landscapes, make a mess and slow commutes. Worst of all, they take years to complete.
Town of Farragut Engineering Director Darryl Smith says road projects are lengthy because each of the stages – utility relocation, right-of-way and easement acquisition, design and construction – is time consuming. And each stage can have unforeseen delays.
The Virtue Road improvement project was approved by the Farragut Planning Commission in fall 2018. Public input on the design was solicited in April 2018, so many residents want to know the status of the project.
Virtue Road will be improved from 700 feet south of Kingston Pike to 2,200 feet south of Broadwood Drive. Changes include widening the road from two 9-foot lanes to two 11-foot lanes with curb and gutter and the addition of an 8-foot multi-use greenway separated from the road by a 6-foot grass strip.
In April, the town contracted with Crook & Co. for acquisition services. This is a neutral third party that will appraise rights-of-way and easements and negotiate a price for each parcel. The process is expected to take until the end of 2019. The bidding process for construction is estimated to begin in spring 2020, with construction taking place between May 2020 and June 2021.
The town makes every effort to speed the completion process and works with property owners when it can. The town is currently working on an agreement with the developers of Brookmere subdivision that would allow them to go ahead with construction of the roundabout at the new subdivision’s entrance to ensure access during road construction. If an agreement is reached, construction of the roundabout could begin as early as July.
Smith acknowledges that it takes an abundance of patience for drivers and nearby residents to survive a road-improvement project.
“In the end, it’s worth the wait because we’re providing a safer corridor for both motorists and pedestrians,” he says.
Improving roads requires a long view, but it’s necessary work in a growing community like Farragut. We can’t stop change, so we must embrace it.
Wendy Smith, a former journalist, is public relations and marketing coordinator for the town of Farragut and writes The Farragut Insider for the town’s website.