Signal Mountain is one of our most prized residential areas, despite having only one dependable access route (Signal Mountain Road).
A few years ago, we got a nice grant under a federal scenic highways bill to upgrade the "W" Road, and I was a little surprised the road was fairly safe and sitting on a fairly good foundation. It may need to be closed now and then for rockslides and maintenance, but it should continue to serve as a secondary route to Signal Mountain Road for a long time.
I am just wondering if this may not be the time for an engineering study to find the best route for a new road up the mountain. Some of the best remaining land for residential development is on the mountain, and every time some developer dreams a big dream for something special on the mountain, it seems to die with discussion of the road situation.
The only other access route up the mountain is Roberts Gap Road out of Falling Water. Somehow the county manages to keep this route open most of the time, but our engineers have long felt it should not be viewed as the third permanent route up the mountain. They have all talked about how the underlying rock structure is too unstable for it to be viewed as the "other" route.
Maybe another engineering study of the Roberts Gap Road should be done to see if there is any reliable underlying rock structure in that general area to build a safe road upon. We can just keep on patching it when it falls in, or we can go ahead and spend the money to see if there is any possibility of a dependable, safe road in that area. We have certainly talked about it long enough.
Since the underlying rock structure is one of the most important factors in determining where to build roads, the first engineering study might be related to that -- just general observations from TVA rock structure maps of the mountain to see what looks like the best areas to consider for a third route.
County Engineer Todd Leamon tells me an alternate route to Roberts Milll Road shows on some planning paper he inherited when he became county engineer, and he is looking for the planning backup to the route that is shown.
As Leamon points out, we cannot lean too heavily on Signal Mountain Road's availability. "It's not been all that long," he points out, "since a lane had to be closed four or five weeks due to a mudslide."
Mountain roads are mountain roads and subject to temporary closures due to rockslides and mudslides. It's good to have backups like the "W" Road and Roberts Gap, but minimally there should be two dependable, well-engineered routes up any mountain with the residential population of Signal.
Engineer Leamon says he plans to propose discussion of a new route in the new Regional Highway Plan. He says he is not trying to dictate a timetable but knows this is a first step to getting a potential project moving. He thinks it is time we got all the federal, state and local highway people to talking about Signal Mountain.
Actually, I think we are already a little overdue on it.
Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.