North Knoxville neighborhood finds ways to stop speeding drivers

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– There are legal ways and illegal ways to make drivers slow down on a road. Residents in a north Knoxville neighborhood have done both.

On Tuesday, residents of the Oakwood-Lincoln Park neighborhood noticed some speed bumps show up on Hiawassee Avenue. City officials said they haven’t heard back from the law department yet, but since Hiawassee is a city-owned road, putting those speed bumps without permission was not exactly legal. They also said the city did not place them, nor gave approval for someone to do so.

As of Wednesday, those speed bumps had been removed, but residents in the area said something did need to be done on several streets within the community.

“One of my biggest concerns is that someone is going to get hit, and we’ve had a lot of close calls,” David Penegar, a resident on Oglewood Ave., said.

“This is dangerous right down here at this light (on Broadway). And it’s because they speed,” Starlette Horner, a resident on Raleigh Ave., said.

Horner has been living along Raleigh Ave. for about 22 years. She’s witnessed and has been a victim of speeding drivers for most of those years.

“We had three cars hit at one time out here one day with a girl, a young girl, flying,” Horner said.

Horner said that in the past, she has called the city of Knoxville hoping something could be done about the fast drivers.

“They brought the police and came down to the next street here and sat down there for probably two or three hours but they came at the wrong time of day. And nobody was speeding, so they didn’t do anything about it,” Horner said.

Horner said the speedy drivers come out mostly between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. when the workday is over. She said she knows that getting the city to do anything can take a while because she’s of how long it took for the sidewalks in front of her house to be fixed. Horner also knew someone wouldn’t be able to fix the issue on their own, because she tried with the sidewalks, only to be told it was city property and she would not be allowed to.

“But, I’d never tried to fix the street,” she laughed.

Penegar said he understood why someone wanted to add in their own speed bumps.

“I feel compassionate and understanding, because I have felt uh that that would be a solution, but unfortunately, it’s not necessarily the right thing to do,” Penegar said.

Penegar said he and several other neighbors along a few streets in the Oakwood-Lincoln Park community have been working for a few years to fix the problem of speedy drivers. Most of the roads in that community have a speed limit of 25 or 30 mph, Oglewood’s speed limit is 25 mph.

“We need safe routes for school and safe routes for folks to feel comfortable to get out and walk and not be worried about a car doing 60 (mph) jumping the curb,” Penegar said.

Penegar said there is a legal way to go about making the neighborhood safer by working with the city’s Neighborhood Empowerment department on a traffic calming study.He said to do that, one must first fill out an application for the department at this link (or by calling 865-215-2113), then take or mail it to the office in the City-County building.

The next step is for the city to find out if a study can be done on the street because they can’t work on certain types of streets. Then, the city will host a “kick-off” meeting with residents to talk about the issues along the road and what residents are looking for.

After that comes the hard work, according to Penegar. Residents must collect signatures from more than 50% of their neighbors on that street.

“Especially during COVID, going door to door to get signatures was not an easy task. But, our goal was to build consensus among the neighbors who agree,” Penegar said.

He said they were able to do so along his street and other streets, like Chickamauga, where residents want a traffic calming solution. Penegar said the process was long, and the neighborhood still has some time to wait, but he believes it will be worth it in the end.

“The important thing to know is that it does take time to go through the proper steps, but you get a lasting result, instead of something that can just be peeled off, like the vigilante type speed bumps,” Penegar said.

He was looking forward to hearing from city engineers about what they think would be the best solution to stop drivers from speeding. Penegar was told the traffic calming study was approved for the area, which only includes a roads with residents who participated in the petition. Unfortunately for Horner, that doesn’t include Raleigh.

Eric Vreeland, a spokesperson for the city of Knoxville, said to have an end result for a traffic calming study can be a multi-year process. Right now, about 50 roads are on the list for a traffic calming study. But, he knew a few roads in the Oakwood-Lincoln Park neighborhood were at the top of a priority list.

Vreeland said that usually, the city works on three to five traffic studies every fiscal year, with the exception of the 2020-2021 year due to the pandemic. However, the city has allotted $250,000 for traffic calming projects for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

Vreeland said Hiawassee Ave. was not listed as one of the roads for a traffic calming study. Penegar said he knows Oglewood Ave. residents just have to wait on the city. He hopes they won’t have to wait too long.

“If we can get a resolution within the next year, I would be pretty psyched. But I’m realistic too,” Penegar said.

If you would like to start a traffic calming study for your road, visit the city’s website here.

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