It appears the Tennessee Department of Transportation has finally pinpointed why there have been a pattern of hydroplane crashes on Interstate 40 East near Mt. Juliet.
According to the report, they said the high rate of similar-type crashes was most likely related to a recent road project that did not "adequately address storm water runoff."
On Friday, TDOT released the results of an extensive analysis of the 226 mile-marker area where Mt. Juliet Police responded to more than 30 crashes since January. City of Mt. Juliet Engineer Andrew Barlow said eight of the crashes had reported injuries.
"And all had the same pattern with heavy rain and in the same location," Barlow said.
He approached TDOT officials with his concerns in July. There have been several subsequent hydroplane accidents near mile-marker 226 since his request to TDOT to check out a potential problem there.
TDOT officials said their department reviewed the corridor near mile-marker 226 at the request of state and local law enforcement. Spokesperson Heather Jensen said their analysis included crash data, roadway design plans, along with a road survey known as Light Detection and Ranging or LiDAR.
In a statement, TDOT officials explained this section of I-40 was widened recently from west of Mt. Juliet Road to east of State Route 109. It was part of a design-build contract with Lane Construction Corporation, they said.
Design-build is a project delivery system where a single contractor provides both design and construction services.
"Based on the initial data analysis, it is believed that the design-build team did not adequately address storm water run-off or the spread of storm water into lanes of travel," the statement says.
Also, TDOT "believes the project was not constructed adequately to provide for appropriate water runoff."
According to TDOT officials, after concluding the analysis, they have asked the design-builder, "for a plan of action to address these issues."
As for now, there will be message boards to warn drivers of potential ponding. And a "HELP" unit will be on-site during bad wither to shift traffic if necessary, said the statement.
In July, Jensen noted significant amounts of rainfall in short periods of time can create potentially hazardous conditions like flash flooding or ponding on the roadway, and many motorists drive too fast for these conditions. She said the department urges motorists to always reduce speed in wet conditions.
Friday's statement 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," the statement read.
TDOT urged to use caution and reduce speed in these conditions.
"I know, from a police standpoint, we are grateful on TDOT's rapid response," MJPD Lt. Tyler Chandler said.
Writer Laurie Everett can be contacted at email@example.com.