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Car Accidents on Chapman Highway Result in 3 Fatalities in 2019

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Donnie Surber, 48, was killed in a car crash on Chapman Highway at Tipton Station Road in April 11th, 2019, according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Isaac Lynn, 28, was injured in the crash. Lynn was driving North on Chapman Highway when he allegedly crossed the center divide into the southbound lanes striking Surber's vehicle head-on. Lynn was taken to UT Medical Center for injuries he sustained in the crash.

This makes the third fatality in 2019 on the 22-mile stretch of Chapman Highway from Knoxville to Sevierville. On December 29th, 2018, another tragic death on Chapman Highway sparked renewed public interest in the dangerous condition of Chapman Highway. Knoxville Fire Capt. DJ Corcoran and his wife Wendy lost their son Pierce in the December 29th, 2018 car crash. Since the death of their son, the Corcoran's have joined the public debate regarding how to make Chapman Highway safer.

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Last week, Wendy Corcoran asked officials to reconsider a James White Parkway bypass, a proposal to improve safety and congestion on Chapman Highway that was vetoed by Mayor Madeline Rogero six years ago. Mayor Rogero is opposed to the James White Parkway bypass because it would endanger the Urban Wilderness she worked to establish. The James White Parkway bypass was outlined in the 2006 Chapman Highway Corridor Study prepared by the Knoxville Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission. The vision for the James White Parkway bypass was that it would be "a traffic mover with no commercial development."

Concerning the frequent auto accidents on Chapman Highway the 2006 study found "a large percentage of vehicle crashes occurring on Chapman Highway are rear-end collisions. . . More serious injuries and fatalities typically happen in the locations with no center turn lane." The most recent fatality on Chapman Highway was allegedly caused by a driver crossing the center line and hitting a vehicle head on.

The 2006 study recommended the following measures to increase safety on Chapman Highway:

  1. Providing space for different modes - bicyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles
  2. Informing users of the mix of modes
  3. Providing uniform and predictable designs and traffic control, based on context
  4. Establishing appropriate design speed, based on context
  5. Adding appropriate design elements (center turn lanes or medians, right turn lanes, etc.)
  6. Providing adequate sight distance

Thirteen years after the 2006 study, the Tennessee Department of Transportation still believes an alternate route to divert traffic from Chapman Highway is necessary. "The position of the department remains that this is a roadway that you need to get a lot of cars off of," said Mark Nagi, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. "We're doing what we can with Chapman Highway, but we don't believe that without getting a lot of cars off of that roadway, that we can make Chapman Highway as safe as it can be." 

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