MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – Mt. Juliet has seen nearly 40 crashes on Interstate 40 east near Belinda Parkway since January, according to City Engineer Andy Barlow.
In July, a car was stuck under a semi-truck; a father and his two young children were inside. In May, dash cam video showed a car spinning into an officer’s vehicle, barely missing him.
The crashes are still happening even though the Tennessee Department of Transportation determined in July a design flaw in a widening project is the root of the problem.
Barlow said there have been five other hydroplaning crashes since then, including one on Saturday evening
“You always get a little nervous every time it rains,” he told News 2.
He said there is a temporary safety plan in place until a permanent fix is implemented when construction is complete.
“If we know we have a weather event coming, we could have some heavy rains, we’ve worked with TDOT,” said Barlow. “They actually shut down the lane that’s causing all the problems. Our police and fire go out there as well to help assist.”
Barlow said sometimes the weather can’t be predicted, like on Saturday.
“We had a squall line come through late afternoon on Saturday. There’s one that wasn’t quite as expected so we didn’t have the lane actually shut down,” he said.
News 2 reached out to TDOT for an explanation. The following was explained by Heather Jensen, Community Relations Officer:
TDOT and Lane Construction have agreed on a plan that will add more drains and adjust the cross-slope of I-40 at mile marker 226. This will address the design and drainage issues found in the Department’s analysis of the roadway. The contractor is currently working with a subcontractor on cost and scheduling. Construction is expected to begin by mid-October.
TDOT is working expeditiously to resolve the design issue at this location. Until construction begins, there is a plan in place in which TDOT monitors the roadway, in partnership with Mt Juliet Police Department, before and during anticipated rainfall. When inclement occurs, message boards are activated to alert motorists to the potential for ponding water. A dedicated HELP unit also monitors the area to determine if there is standing water and if a lane closure is necessary.
As noted in the media release distributed in July, while the design of the roadway is of concern at this location, drivers are reminded of the potential hazards of wet weather on any roadway. No design can immediately accommodate water accumulation during periods of very heavy rainfall or flash flooding events. Motorists on all roadways are urged to use caution and reduce speed in wet conditions.
According to TDOT, construction is expected to take less than a month so the problem should be fixed by the end of November.
“Until we go out there and physically construct the work that needs to be done, you’re still going to have issues,” said Barlow.