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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Vehicles drive along the W Road up Signal Mountain in 2020.

The historic W Road running from the Mountain Creek community to the top of Signal Mountain is a treasure — until you get sandwiched in a line of traffic after a tractor-trailer following a wayward GPS signal has become wedged in one of its rock-and-cliff-lined hairpin turns.

When that happens — and it happens often — it's a nightmare. The road usually has to be closed for hours while crews break the trucks free and help the drivers back their rigs down to the only pull-off spot on the road that's large enough for a big truck to turn around.

This happens despite two sets of flashing signs, a graphic "No Trucks" painted on the pavement and still another sign that says "Your GPS is wrong! No truck traffic."

On Thursday, Hamilton County Commissioner Chip Baker, who represents Signal Mountain and Mountain Creek, brought Sheriff's Chief Deputy Austin Garrett and county public works administrator and engineer Todd Leamon to listen to residents and drivers who are fed up with the situation. Those residents also had plenty to say about speeding and littering on the road.

The officials' responses were less than encouraging.

Leamon said the county added more signs and road markings about three years ago, and he is working with the county's mapping department to inform Google and other companies that provide navigation services to not direct out-of-town drivers to the road. That takes three years?

Garrett said deputies document the companies of the trucks that get stuck, and he can then send officers from the county's traffic unit to educate drivers from those companies. That takes all these years?

One resident said people are now parking in truck turn-around space to access the trails at the new Walden's Ridge Park. The park is also bringing more traffic and cyclists to the road, she said.

"That's an infrastructure enhancement that we'll need to be focused on as well," Garrett said.

That was a politic answer from the sheriff's department which has chosen not to ban cyclists from the two-lane road that is so narrow drivers have to decide which law to break: The one requiring them to keep their vehicles three feet from cyclists or the one requiring them not to cross the center line into oncoming traffic.

Baker told the 40 or so people at the meeting (40 people rarely show up at school board meetings, so you can bet the W frustration is big) that he would discuss their concerns and possible solutions with Garrett and Leamon and get back in touch.

We'll be waiting.

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