In a first step toward the potential realignment of the intersection of Robinson and Hanna roads, Oak Ridge North City Council approved issuing certificates of obligation totaling more than $8 million during a specially called session Nov. 18.

The sale, which passed unanimously, is expected to provide the city around $8.76 million in funding mainly for use on road projects, including the long-awaited intersection redesign on the city's east side that may pave the way for future redevelopment in the city's central Plaza District zone.

While no firm construction plans or timeline are yet in place, preliminary engineering concepts for the redesign show the disconnected Robinson-Hanna junction could be changed from its current design featuring a pair of three-way intersections controlled by stop signs to a single four-way, signalized intersection with a portion of Robinson Road shifted south.

City staff said the decision to advance the realignment process this year by utilizing funding through certificates of obligation—which do not require voter approval—partially stemmed from the current low interest rate environment and a structure that officials said will not affect the city's tax rate.

“We’re paying less interest rate, fewer dollars of principal of interest than we had anticipated, and I think this is supposed to give you comfort that you aren’t going to have to levy any debt service tax rate to cover the debt service on the certificates of obligation," city financial adviser John Howell said at the Nov. 18 meeting.

Residents and city officials have cited traffic along Robinson Road as a top priority for years, with the Hanna Road intersection identified as a key mobility improvement both within the city and as an east-west route for drivers throughout south Montgomery County. Funding for the realignment and widening of Robinson Road was included in the county's $350 million road bond in early 2015, but the project was removed in a final $280 million package that passed at the polls after voters initially rejected the larger version. Improvements to the road were also included on the county's 2016 thoroughfare plan.

A first phase of improvements, including the signalization and redesign of the Robinson Road-Woodlands Parkway I-45 interchange and the expansion of the road's intersection at Patsy Lane, was completed by Montgomery County Precinct 3 using road bond funds earlier this year.