Officials respond to public outcry over Chapman Highway safety

Officials respond to public outcry over Chapman Highway safety

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This was the scene on Sunday at the site of the fatal collision. This was the scene on Sunday at the site of the fatal collision.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Officials responded Tuesday to the public outcry to make Chapman Highway safer. An SUV crossed the highway center line in Sevier County Sunday, hitting a church van head-on.

Two people in the van were killed and several others were injured. It happened near Zion Hill Church Road.

Now an online petition asks lawmakers and the Tennessee Department of Transportation to redesign Chapman Highway.

According to TDOT, 14,000 cars drive Chapman Highway every day. In a half-mile stretch near the accident site, the Tennessee Highway Patrol says there have been 27 accidents since 2007. That's not including the crash on Sunday.

State Sen. Doug Overbey (R-Maryville) said, "I think that there's no doubt that there are dangers on Chapman Highway," he said.

More than 800 people have signed a petition on change.org urging lawmakers and TDOT officials to redesign the highway.

People who signed say the highway is dangerous and too many people have died driving on it.

TDOT spokesperson Mark Nagi says the department is looking into the concerns. "Our traffic office and public safety office are looking into the crash data to see if that area is eligible for safety funding," he explained.

Nagi says to determine eligibility, TDOT researches data including the number of accidents over a period of time on a section of road.

He says other improvements can be made and have been made in the past on Chapman Highway.

"Over the years on Chapman Highway, there have been sections that have been widened. There have been multiple improvements that have been made, including pavement markings and center lane rumble strips," Nagi said.

He also says several projects are in the works for the highway. One is about five miles east of the accident site, where a center turn lane will be added from U.S. 411 to Macon Lane.

Other improvements will be made from Evans Road to Burnett Lane.

However, Sen. Overbey says he'll be in touch with TDOT this week to see what else can be done to improve the safety of the roadway.

"This is a tragic situation, but we need to look at it and see what we can do to make this better and hopefully not happen again in the future," Overbey said.

To report road safety concerns to TDOT, call 1-877-SMARTWAY.

To sign the petition, go to change.org.

TDOT says it decides which road improvements need to be made and when.

Sen. Overbey says state lawmakers determine the funding for TDOT's projects and both encourage input from the public.

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