Gatlinburg crosswalks called unsafe

Apr. 10, 2014 @ 11:43 PM

At a city commission meeting Monday evening, residents and business owners voiced their concerns about a crosswalk on the Parkway downtown.

Last week a local woman, Ola Moore, 70, was struck by a vehicle as she crossed the southbound lanes in front of the Rocky Waters Motel.

Businesswoman Kay Morton knows Moore, and said the two were about to exercise when Moore was hit.

“It’s a wonder that Ola’s not dead,” Morton said. “I cannot tell you how many people that I invite to come down there, to shop with me or to come train with me, and they tell me they are afraid to cross the street.”

Often drivers speeding through crosswalks are, Morton said, “(tourists who) love to scream at me and curse me when I’m in the crosswalk, where I’m supposed to have the right of way.”

But not every offender is a tourist. The man who struck Moore with his vehicle last week, Fred Franco, 59, is a Sevierville resident.

“I’ve been almost hit by a city trolley and, actually, a police car,” Morton said.

Morton believes more traffic signals are needed to slow down speeding motorists on the Parkway and make crosswalks safer.

“I know we have a caution light down there, which means nothing,” she said. “They fly right through it.”

John Packard, one of the owners of American Sideshow at 373 Parkway, spoke about the two crosswalks on either side of his building. He said this was the first time he had gone to a city commission meeting, but he went on Monday because he felt strongly that something needed to be done.

“You literally take your life in your hands when you cross that street,” Packard said. “I have almost been hit, I would dare to say, 10 times.”

Danny Lewis, also an owner of American Sideshow, suggested that, if additional traffic signals are not possible, then cameras — whether functioning or not — could possibly deter people from speeding in the area. He also suggested that business owners could volunteer to help out.

“It’s a pretty scary spot right in there,” Lewis said. “You can’t ask the city to do everything, and I know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, so I’ll do whatever I can to help.” After each person had said their piece at the meeting, Commissioner Mark McCown suggested that commissioners discuss the matter in a workshop.

“I think we all want safety, especially from traffic light three to traffic light one,” McCown said. “We certainly don’t want everything that’s happened to happen again.”

McCown also suggested that an agenda item from Monday evening — a bid for a police radar trailer, unanimously approved — could be helpful in making the crosswalks safer.

Mayor Jerry Hays said that because the Parkway is a state highway, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has final say.

The city cannot authorize traffic lights, but can only ask for them, he said.

“We will take all of your comments under advisory,” Hays said.

City Manager Cindy Ogle agreed to set up a workshop for the commissioners.

Told that the issue would take time to address, an audience member said something needs to happen now.

“I think a better setting for this is a workshop,” Ogle responded, ending discussion.

A date for the workshop has not been set. Ogle said it may be a few weeks.

jold@themountainpress.com