What safety upgrades will help Chapman Highway?

What safety upgrades will help Chapman Highway? Officials and residents weigh in


6 News Reporter

SEYMOUR (WATE) - Tennessee lawmakers and transportation officials are addressing safety concerns on Chapman Highway after Sunday's deadly crash involving a church van.

Cedar Grove Baptist Church Youth Pastor Jeff Trussell, 45, of Maryville and Courteney Kaliszewski, 16, of Seymour were killed.

Earlier this week, 6 News spoke with Sen. Doug Overbey about what lawmakers could do about the dangers of Chapman Highway.

Sen. Overbey took the public's concerns to Nashville, meeting with transportation officials on Thursday. Now, Tennessee Department of Transportation officials say they're looking into what they can do.

"Anytime there's an incident or an accident, we try to go back and review. The state keeps a very extensive history of accidents and looks at what's going on on the roadway and what we can do," said TDOT Regional Director Steve Borden.

TDOT officials say they're working quickly to bring a project along Chapman Highway that could help with some of the issues, but not in the section where the van was hit.

"One of the things we can do pretty quickly is trying to do a rumble strip down the center line. That'll help people. It makes that noise that if you're getting on it, it will make that noise and alert you," Borden explained.

TDOT says a project to put a rumble strip, the grooved lines, down a stretch of Chapman Highway starting at White School Road is about to begin. It involves a seven-mile stretch and could begin in four to six weeks, at a cost of just over $20,000.

A similar fix could help near Zion Hill Church Road where the van was struck.

But area residents aren't sure if that's the best thing. "A rumble lane would help, but we need a turning lane," said Roger Lee Rogers, who has worked and lived along Chapman Highway for years.

"We need a turn lane all the way up this highway, mostly people rear-ending and people crossing the center line," Rogers added.

Other business owners along the stretch agree. "It used to be called Bloody Chapman for years, and lately it's gotten real bad the last few years," said Charles Rayfield, who has owned a furniture store on Chapman Highway since the 1990s.

Rayfield says a turning lane is the only thing that will fix the problems.

But TDOT officials say that would be a much longer process. "A project of that scope is very large, and we start looking at a lengthy time period, environmental documents. You start displacing people, property with having to add width to the roadway," Borden explained.

However, those who've witnessed the dangers of Chapman Highway say the time and effort is well worth it. "It's worth saving lives," Rogers said.

TDOT officials say they're putting turn lanes in two other portions of Chapman Highway.

But as for when work could begin near Zion Hill Church Road, TDOT says officials are still analyzing the accident report and the traffic patterns to determine if that section needs work.

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