Treacherous intersection getting officials’ attention

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Carla Wallace was devastated Sunday when her 18-year-old sonCasey was involved in an accident at Laird’s Crossing.

But as much as she grieves for what her son went through andwill go through while recovering, she worries about the family andfriends of 27-year-old Justin Smith, who was killed in thewreck.

“I really want to reach out to them but I can’t even start toimagine what they’re going through, so I guess the best thing to dois probably just keep on praying,” she said. “I want that family toknow that we truly, truly are feeling for them. I just hate it somuch for them.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Sunday’s accident was just the most recent in the history of anintersection that has claimed lives and injured many, manymore.

“I’ve lived in this community for 17 years, and Laird’s Crossinghas always been a bad spot,” Wallace said. “But now that my childhas been affected by it it brings it home even more so.”

Just two months before, Wallace’s cousin, Melissa Hall, wasinjured in an accident that also ended in a fatality. Janice Allen,63, of McCall Creek, was killed in that incident.

Hall was sent to Jackson with multiple injuries, and said she’sspent the weeks since the accident trying to reconstruct it throughwhat other people have told her – because the memory of that daywas wiped out.

“My neck is still a little messed up, but I’m OK,” she said.”But how many deaths is it going to take before we do somethingwith that crossing, because in 90 percent of those wrecks, somebodydies. That may not be the right percentage, but either way, it’stoo many.”

Through the years, the intersection of Highway 84 andJackson-Liberty Drive has been known to be a dangerous spot, butstatistics were not immediately available on how many injuries anddeaths have taken place there.

The problem with the intersection, officials contend, is a dipin the westbound lane where a motorist can almost lose completesight of an eastbound oncoming car as they wait at the stop signson Jackson-Liberty Drive. In addition, speeders tend to ignore the”Slow to 45″ signs that surround the intersection.

“Because the evening sun blinds people traveling when you pullup and stop and look to the west,” said Zetus Volunteer Fire ChiefDale Anding. “And if you sit there and watch a car, it’s going todip down and go out of sight in that dip, especially if you’re in acar that sits low to the ground.”

In the meantime, Lincoln County officials have decided they’vehad enough. Sheriff Steve Rushing submitted a letter to the LincolnCounty Board of Supervisors Monday asking that they pressure theMississippi Department of Transportation to do something about thesituation.

“We’ve had two fatalities in the past two or three months now,it seems like it’s getting worse,” he said. “These wrecks aren’tminor wrecks, one car is usually coming on pretty good.”

But MDOT officials said they feel the same way about it.

MDOT District Engineer Darrell Broome said the move is alreadyunder way to correct the geographical problems that have made theintersection so dangerous.

“That’s what we’re intending to do, one option is to raise thegrade in the bottom of that vertical about a foot and have sightall the way through there,” said Broome,

He added that a four-way stop would be less expensive, butprobably not as safe.

“We don’t want anyone else getting hurt. We’ve had a safety crewlook at it and do a review,” Broome said. “We’ll do a littlegrading work on that south shoulder to improve sight distance (and)think it will make a world of difference.”

Broome said if all goes according to plan, it may be possible tohave the $100,000 to $150,000 in work done by fall. But still, hereminded people that caution saves lives.

“Even though typically that is designed a little more than atthe speed limit, if it’s 65 and you’re going 70 or 80, that’sdifferent,” he said. “That will change the amount of time we haveto react. A lot of the problem has to do with people driving overthe posted speed limit.”

In 2000, in response to similar concerns, MDOT placed largesigns on Highway 84 and rumble strips and signs on Jackson LibertyDrive, hoping to quell the problem. Broome said MDOT officials wantthe community to know they are concerned and serious about makingthe intersection safer.

“It’s not like we’ve ignored it. We’ve had safety people whohave gone out and done a review, and we’re working on this projectto improve it,” he said. “We don’t want anyone else to gethurt.”