KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knox County Engineering and Public Works on Tuesday announced a six-month road construction project in the Hardin Valley community that could ease the congestion of what the county calls a “problematic” intersection that’s nestled among neighborhoods and yet another upcoming residential development.

A roundabout, which is a low-speed intersection traffic control device that allows drivers to circulate around a central structure or island, will be installed at the end of Hardin Valley Road – where East Gallaher Ferry Road and Hickory Creek Road meet. This intersection of three main roadways has a history of crashes with vehicles often going off the road.

“People are not expecting it. Going westbound or eastbound approaching this intersection, you’ve got a mile of roadway that’s flat and relatively straight. Then you have a curve where you have to slow down to 10 miles per hour,” Jim Snowden, senior director of Knox County Engineering and Public Works, said in an email news release. “This new roundabout will have everyone come into one point, eliminate conflict points, and really operate more efficiently and safely.”

According to Knox County Engineering and Public Works, the volume of traffic in the Hardin Valley area is increasing due to rapid growth and residential development. The department also shared that a developer of a new subdivision near the intersection is contributing $300,000 toward the $1.2 million construction project.

Snowden also says that drivers should be prepared for large heavy equipment near the intersection through mid-November 2022, which is the deadline for the contractor to complete the project. The construction of the actual roundabout should not interfere with traffic or require road closures.

“We are able to build the roundabout in an empty space [beside the intersection] where nobody is currently operating. So, we’ll be able to minimize the inconvenience to traffic on the existing roads. Then we’ll come in one weekend or over a week and tie it [the three roads] all together.” He added, “This will fix something that has been a problem. It will really operate a lot more efficiently for the folks who have to drive these roads every day.”

What to know about roundabouts, how to drive through one legally

Drivers in West Knox County generally are not unfamiliar with traffic roundabouts – a multilane roundabout in the Farragut along Northshore Drive at the recently-widened Concord Road is a heavily traveled intersection; in fact, the Farragut area hosts around a dozen roundabouts. Also, there exist a few smaller roundabouts in the Dutchtown/Hardin Valley area of Bob Gray Road that were installed in 2014.

According to the Tennessee driver’s license manual, many Tennessee towns have a form of a roundabout that is known as the “town square.” The manual also offers instructions for driving through a roundabout – correctly:

  • Always travel around a roundabout to the right, in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • On approaching the roundabout, stay in your lane and to the right of the splitter island or yellow pavement markings/curbs directing traffic to the right. These islands are used to prevent vehicles from attempting to travel left around the circle.
  • Upon reaching the roundabout, yield to vehicles already within the circulating traffic. Observe the standard right-of-way procedures as with regular intersections controlled by yield signs. Enter the roundabout when there is a gap in traffic and once inside do not stop unless directed to do so by signs, signals or a traffic officer.
  • Within the roundabout, proceed at a slower speed (usually posted at 15 to 25 m.p.h.).
  • Exit the roundabout at any street or continue around again if you miss the street on which you wanted to turn.
  • In a multilane roundabout, do not overtake or pass any vehicles. Remember the roundabout is a low-speed traffic control device. Be prepared to yield to vehicles turning in front of you from the inside lane to exit the roundabout.
  • Exit the roundabout carefully. Always indicate your exit using your right turn signal. Watch for pedestrians in or approaching the crosswalk on the street you are exiting and yield the right-of-way if necessary.

The new Hardin Valley roundabout is expected to be operational by mid-November.