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City to seek grant for crosswalk
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McMinnville officials gave approval to seek a state grant for installation of a crosswalk at Chancery Street at its intersection with Locust Street. 

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously approved a letter of support that will allow Economic and Community Development assistant director Virginia Alexander to submit a grant application for a Multi-Modal Access Grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation to reconfigure the existing crosswalks at the intersection and install signalization. That action was taken Tuesday night. 

“High end” cost is estimated at $690,000. The city’s portion would be $34,506. Grants pay 95 percent of a project’s total cost, requiring a 5 percent local match. 

Alderman Everett Brock expressed sticker shock for the total cost, and Alexander explained the grant would be a complete crosswalk renovation and not just signalization installation. 

“The high-end cost is the best of the best, all the bells and whistles,” she said. “It does seem a little high for one intersection but it’s also a larger intersection. You have existing crosswalks. Instead of where they are all now, right at the ends of the sidewalks, you’re moving them back. You’ll be renovating the sidewalks and adding ADA ramps. It may not come in that high by the time they are designing it, but with it being a grant application, you want to ask for as much as you can.”

Along with pedestrian signs on each corner to stop traffic when activated, the grant requests the installation of radar traffic sensors in place of traditional triggers in the roadway to activate the lights for waiting motorists. 

“It’s a whole different system of light control and traffic control that we’d like to implement along the bypass,” said city administrator Nolan Ming, who has been working with Alexander on the grant application.

Radar traffic sensors detect movement aboveground. They can also use position and velocity data along with the state of the intersection lights to predict when an approaching vehicle would run a red light. When an imminent red-light running condition is detected, the radar traffic sensor system notifies the intersection signal controller to hold the traffic signals red in all directions until the vehicle has cleared the intersection, thereby avoiding an accident. 

“That would be helpful,” said Brock. “I go through this intersection probably four or five times a day. People run that light consistently. I guarantee you that you can sit on Locust Street three times and you’ll see people run through it. It’s not only a yellow light. They’ll run a red light, too.”

That intersection came under consideration in April when resident Zach Sutton requested action by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. 

Since that time, two pedestrians have been struck further down the road near Smithville Highway’s intersection with the bypass in the general area of McDonald’s. Latasha Dobbins, 16, was struck and seriously injured in May and Aeden McLean, 16, was struck in September and succumbed to his injuries. 

TDOT’s Multimodal Access Grant application deadline is Oct. 15. Alexander had the grant submission ready and awaiting a letter of support by the city of McMinnville. Changes could not be made. 

Mayor Ben Newman advised Alexander of the deadly incident involving a pedestrian and asked that she contact TDOT about the possibility of a pedestrian crosswalk at the intersection in front of McDonald’s or that she consider that area for future grant opportunities. 

Pedestrian crosswalks are already in the process for the corner of Old Smithville Highway and the bypass in front of Walmart and at the main entrance to Walmart on N. Chancery Street. 

TDOT’s grant notification for the intersection of Chancery and Locust streets is expected in four to six months.