Design flaw corrected by end of November
The city of Mt. Juliet's alert system pings on a regular basis these days to warn motorists to "slow down and pay attention."
The system, Nixle, has thousands of followers, and when it's raining the message is about hydroplaning on Interstate 40 east, near the 226-mile marker.
According to City Public Works Director Andy Barlow, there have been over 40 hydroplane accidents there since January, at least five since July - many with injuries. The image of Andrew Gentry's mangled car wedged under a tanker truck on July 2 is haunting.
Nixle pinged just Monday around 10:30 a.m. during a rainstorm, reminding those traveling on that stretch of interstate near Mt. Juliet there could be ponding.
The same message appeared earlier, on Saturday, at 6:25 p.m. and was quickly followed about a message there indeed was a subsequent wreck at that mile marker with "possible injury."
This scenario most likely will continue through mid-October, when the Tennessee Department of Transportation will begin work to fix what they have determined is a design flaw that causes excessive ponding in that area. According to TDOT officials, the corrections should be complete by the end of November.
In July, TDOT released the findings of a months-long investigation (go to wilsonpost.com to see the story) into the excessive number of wrecks at MM 226. In a July email to The Wilson Post, TDOT representative Heather Jensen released this statement.
"Based on the initial data analysis, it is believed that the design-build team did not adequately address storm water runoff or the spread of storm water into lanes of travel. Additionally, TDOT believes the project was not constructed adequately to provide for appropriate water runoff.
"As a result of the findings, TDOT has asked the design-builder for an action plan to address these issues. To help address immediate concerns, message boards will be posted to warn motorists of potential ponding of water during inclement weather. A dedicated HELP unit will also be on-site during weather events to shift traffic as needed."
Additionally, TDOT officials said, "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."
On Monday, Jensen said plans are being finalized now to make the road correction.
"TDOT and Lane Construction have agreed on a plan that will add more drains and adjust the cross-slope of the roadway," she said. "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."
In the meantime, Barlow said both the Mt. Juliet police and fire departments are at the area during rain and TDOT closes the lane with the most ponding so try to alleviate crash incidents. He urges extra caution when driving on that portion of the interstate.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at email@example.com.