I was involved in a minor traffic accident recently. No one was hurt, thank goodness. A 16-year-old young man learned that his pickup truck would not handle a wet curvy road as well as he thought it would. Unfortunately, my car became a teaching aid in that lesson.
I mention this because while my car has been in Dennis Powell’s body shop, the 16-year-old’s insurance company has graciously paid for me to drive around in, of all things, a muscle car. Big, deeply noisy, American-built and fueled by equal parts gasoline and testosterone, this growling monster allows me to mark “drive the mid-life-crisis car” off my bucket list.
It is difficult to stay within the speed limit while driving this car, but of course I do (Do you hear that, car rental company lawyers? I definitely stay within the speed limit at all times. Also I signal before changing lanes and I slow to 15 mph in school zones, even though school is out for the summer. Yessiree Bob, Caution is my middle name).
And I mention that to tell you that driving a muscle car has given me a new outlook on Johnson City speed limits.
The first thing that has come to my attention is the peculiar speed pattern of drivers on State of Franklin Road.
The speed limit on the stretch that runs alongside Best Buy is 55 mph. It stays that way from just past the West Oakland red light almost to Sunset Drive. Yet many, if not most drivers go 45 or thereabouts. By definition, those of us who realize the speed limit is indeed 10 mph faster than we’re going are trapped behind the blithely slow rolling roadblockers.
Yet on the long straightaway that runs from Greenwood Drive past ETSU to near downtown, where the speed limit is 40, you’ll often be passed by folks doing speeds greater than 50 mph. Maybe they’re just working out their frustration from being trapped behind the slow people back around Best Buy.
To sum up, State of Franklin traffic naturally goes slow where the speed limit is fast, and fast where the speed limit is slow.
“So,” you may now find yourself asking, “what?”
Well the whole point of this observation is that Johnson City is changing, and the way we drive on State of Franklin needs to change with it. The apartment complex being built on the former Mullican site on the north side of State of Franklin will soon produce a new wave of pedestrians crossing from those apartments to ETSU and back. Driving 55 through that stretch will be a recipe for disaster.
Just so, the opening of the beautiful new Founders Park and Tupelo Honey restaurant will produce more foot traffic crossing State of Franklin near downtown.
Now, I’m all in favor of keeping the current 55 mph section posted at that speed (with more noticeable signage to that effect for good measure), but from Greenwood to where it’s already 30 mph downtown, I’d favor cutting the State of Franklin speed limit to 30 and enforcing it to within five mph.
As the town-gown corridor grows, we should address these safety concerns in time to prevent tragedies, rather than react when they happen.
And if I’m honest, taking this muscle car away from me will probably make the city safer too (Just don’t tell the rental company I said so).