Gibbs schools create safety concerns on Tazewell Pike

Sandra ClarkNortheast Knox, On the Grow

Gibbs has benefited from insistent efforts over time to get a new elementary school and a community middle school. Both have been built and opened, and now there’s another need.

“We need a safe way to cross Tazewell Pike,” says Gary Acuff, president of the Gibbs High School Foundation.

Traffic congestion and speeding on Tazewell Pike between Gibbs High School and the middle and elementary schools are dangerous for both pedestrians and motorists. The Gibbs High Foundation, met Dec. 7 with officials who can help. Incredibly, the heads of both Knox County Engineering & Public Works (Jim Snowden) and Region 1 of the Tennessee Department of Transportation (Steve Borden) both live in or near Gibbs.

Borden and Snowden are familiar with the issues and both attended the meeting with Gibbs High principal Jason Webster and Foundation leaders Mark Field, Judy Spitzer, Dana Dalton, Roy Mullins and Rebecca Longmire.

Snowden reported on Dec 12: “We met with the TDOT and Gibbs community group and the agreed-upon outcome was for TDOT to conduct a traffic analysis of the area and report these results back to the group.  It may be possible the data could support a capital project to include an at-grade or grade-separated crossing in future fiscal years.”

Cut to June 2020: TDOT has reduced the speed limit from 50 and 45 miles per hour to 40 MPH as a result of its study. Crews completed the sign installations on April 28. The study is here (making one yearn for the days when Mildred Doyle just phoned Nashville and asked the governor’s office to cut the speed limit in front of her school): SR-331 and SR-131 Speed Limit Request Package – Signed (1)

TDOT’s Mark Nagi added: “The county/locals would have to do lighting, sidewalks and a possible pedestrian bridge if they wanted to. The sidewalks and pedestrian bridge could be funded through a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant.”

“This should not be a dream deferred,” Acuff’s letter stated. “For the safety of all concerned, this project is essential, and the need is immediate.”

Roy Mullins, retired from Knox County schools after years as a principal and service twice as interim superintendent, added historic perspective.

“When I started teaching at Gibbs, it was a grade 1-12 school. Today, the high school has an enrollment of 1,000.” With construction of the middle school, “growth in enrollment is inevitable.”

Mullins outlined projects the Gibbs High Foundation has achieved during its five years of existence:

  • Installed brick pavers at the high school sign
  • Purchased 30 Chromebooks and a charging station ($7,640)
  • ACE Electric donated and installed additional outdoor lighting at the school entrance ($1,800)
  • Gave $2,000 to the choral department to assist with student expenses to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City
  • Gave six grants of $500 to teachers for class needs
  • Fairview Baptist Church gave approximately $27,000 to the Foundation for both lighting and sound improvements in the school auditorium
  • Pays for Eagle gift cards to students chosen by faculty
  • Assists with feeding the faculty and staff through the year.

Next project: Road safety.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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