I was very saddened and angered to learn one of our local residents died from his injuries in a car wreck last Friday. His car was hit while he attempted a left turn from Virginia Circle onto Thompson Bridge Road.
This is the same spot where another person was seriously injured in a head-on collision just three months earlier, on June 10.
Once upon a time, there was a city that spent a small fortune on a strategic 2030 land use plan. That city was Gainesville in June 2012. The plan called for the Thompson Bridge Road corridor to become a complete street; the plan included center islands with traffic-turning features to enable safe access and exit for a series of small local businesses. This setup would have traffic make safe right turns out of business driveways and local streets, and subsequently make safe U-turns by means of designated turning points between the islands in the median.
On this same corridor, the city’s planners suggested a light go at the Virginia Circle-Thompson Bridge Road intersection. What happened instead is that the City Council made a series of decisions — against significant neighborhood protest — to ignore the Comprehensive Plan it had commissioned. The city, for some reason, let Wal-Mart have preferential treatment, and ignored its own Comprehensive Plan.
Wal-Mart insisted via its own traffic engineer that it get its own intersection and red light. So the light was placed at Wal-Mart instead of at the Virginia Circle intersection. This was done even though that new Wal-Mart light is of dubious value as its already very close to the Thompson-Bridge-Enota Drive intersection light.
Local citizens protested the city’s subjugation to corporate Wal-Mart rule and the fact that not one publicly funded traffic study was done for Thompson Bridge Road prior to the installation of the light. The mayor called the Wal-Mart light a waste of time and money and politics under the Gold Dome. However, the public was also told: Don’t worry; let’s see how the Wal-Mart light goes, and we will do an official study after one year.
I think it’s clear that perhaps if we had followed the comprehensive plan, or at least put the light where local planners wanted the light in the first place at Virginia Circle, we would not now be sitting here with dead and injured motorists at the intersection of Thompson Bridge and Virginia Circle.
Now that there has been a death and serious injuries, we should not need to wait one day further for the publicly funded traffic analysis of the whole Thompson Bridge Road corridor, which should be managed as a whole, and not for the good of one business.
Let the City Council authorize that traffic study for the whole of Thompson Bridge Road this week and begin to follow through with the intent of the Comprehensive Plan.