KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As Hardin Valley continues to grow, infrastructure and traffic continue to be a growing concern for current residents and drivers. One intersection of worry currently: Campbell Station Road at Yarnell Road.
Residents said Campbell Station and Yarnell Road are ‘back road’ options for many drivers trying to avoid Pellissippi Parkway or I-40. Residents along Yarnell Road near the intersection said semi-trucks often pass through that intersection to skip the weigh station along I-40.
“You should see trucks try to make this turn (at Campbell Station and Yarnell roads). Because, I’ve mentioned a couple of times, it’s an off-set intersection, so some of these turns are smaller than 90 degrees. So, trying to sit and watch these trucks maneuver around these corners is quite comical. Maybe not so much for my neighbor across the street,” Heather Mekelburg said.
Mekelburg has lived right at the corner of the Yarnell and Campbell Station roads intersection for about five years. She and other residents said drivers using the back roads to skip the highways just adds to the increasing traffic due to new subdivisions being built in Hardin Valley left and right.
“I think (traffic has) gotten worse since there’s more building going on in Hardin Valley. We have a new subdivision maybe a 10th of a mile up the intersection, and that’s a problem,” Rose Whalen said.
Whalen has lived along Yarnell Road for 40 years. She used to watch horses trot by on her road. That’s not possible anymore due to safety concerns.
She said the biggest issue during high travel times is people speeding faster than the 30 mph speed limit on Campbell Station Road, which makes it harder for the drivers on Yarnell Road to cross or turn.
“Traffic moves so slow people talk to me as they roll by. They say, ‘what’s going on?’ I say, ‘there’s no wreck. We’re just stuck,” Whalen said.
When there isn’t a backup along Yarnell Road, speed and blind spots are the problems. Whalen and Mekelburg said most drivers seem to not realize the intersection is coming up. The speed along Yarnell Road is 40 mph.
“You can hear the dump trucks coming onto Yarnell trying to make that stop, because that stop sign, you come over a hill and then boom, there’s the stop sign and you have to try to stop,” Mekelburg said.
The other loud sound residents along Yarnell are getting accustomed to: crashes.
“You hear that sound of an accident, which I recognize now, my kids recognize that now. They’ll ask us if we need to grab the medical kit before we run outside to help,” Mekelburg said.
Mekelburg and Whalen said there have been at least four crashes since Thanksgiving. Two of those crashes, Mekelburg said happened within six weeks of each other. She knows because those cars crashed into her front yard.
“Yeah, our first accident took out 40 feet of fence. The second accident took out 70 feet of fence. And the second accident also snapped brand new pressure treated four by fours,” Mekelburg said.
Mekelburg believed both speed and blind spots contributed to the crashes. She said fencing can be replaced, although not cheaply, but lives cannot be. She worries for her family and for all the young drivers in the area.
“My fear is that I’m going to walk into a fatality and it’s going to be somebody I know. Somebody’s kid,” Mekelburg said.
Whalen is nervous grabbing her mail every day since her mailbox is across the street. Residents want to see the problems fixed.
“For the first step, I’d like them to have flashers and a four-way stop to slow them down,” Whalen said.
“I think there needs to be an auditory reminder that there’s an intersection approaching as well, and that might help slow some people down, the dump trucks coming over the hill might actually be able to stop at the stop sign if they have that reminder that ‘oh yeah, there’s an intersection coming up,” Mekelburg said.
Then, maybe, the cars won’t hit the Mekelburg’s fence.
The long-term fix? Either a red light or a roundabout.
“So ideally a roundabout needs to happen, but I know it’s not budgeted for currently,” Mekelburg said.
Both Mekelburg and Whalen have reached out to local and state leaders to get the ball rolling.
According to Jim Snowden, Director of Engineering and Public Works for Knox County, said that intersection is included in the 20-year transportation planning organization.
He said they are also evaluating the intersection for a roundabout, but funding has not been secured. Residents in the Hardin Valley area have created a petition, hoping 1,000 signatures will bring the needed change.