Officials push for action at intersection

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

After Sunday’s fatal accident that claimed the life of aFranklin County man, Zetus Volunteer Fire Chief Dale Anding ispressing forward with a plan to encourage the MississippiDepartment of Transportation to take measures to end the wrecksthat continue to plague the intersection known as Laird’sCrossing.

MDOT officials said this week that studies are already beingdone to start a project to raise the grade of a dip in the road onthe eastbound lane of Highway 84 just before the intersection ofJackson-Liberty Drive. But Anding said his fire department will bepursuing a petition to have a four-way stop installed anyway, justin case.

“We’re not waiting for them to do something,” he said. “We’vebeen told they were going to do something in the past. I think thatit’s wise that the fire department move ahead with the petition tohave a four-way stop installed.”

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There are many wrecks a year at Laird’s Crossing, and while anumber of them over the years have been fatalities, the otherwrecks are usually serious accidents too. Officials said this isbecause of the dip in the road, but also because motorists ignorethe cautionary speed limit signs lowering the posted speed limit to45 miles per hour just before the intersection.

Sheriff Steve Rushing expressed cautious optimism in MDOT’spromise, saying he hopes the department really will raise the roadat the fatal intersection to make the line of sight clearer -something that’s been a long time in coming.

“Obviously everyone agrees this is something that needs to bedone,” he said. “Will it make a difference? We really don’t knowuntil they do it. I’d think a four-way stop would help, butobviously we’re open to anything that would help right now.”

MDOT District Engineer Darrell Broome said Monday that raisingthe grade of the road may cost between $100,000 and $150,000. Hesaid that’s more expensive than a four-way stop, but that it couldend up being safer.

“That would be better than a four-way because things happen, andyou could still have a truck run through a four-way,” he said.”This would give a little more sight distance, and we really thinkraising that grade would be one of the best things we coulddo.”

MDOT officials said the project will hopefully be started by thefall.

Anding said, like Rushing, that he hopes MDOT will see theproject through and that it will make the difference. However, thewait is frustrating because members of his department are called torespond whenever there is an accident at the dangerousintersection. They’ve seen enough tragedy, and so has thecommunity, he said.

“The responsibility of this department is to save property andlives, here we are with this situation where they’ve told us in thepast that there’s nothing wrong,” he said. “We’re not savingproperty and lives as long as this hasn’t changed. Enough isenough.”

Rushing said his deputies try to keep an eye on the area, buttheir scope of control is limited.

“We try to, but obviously we can’t run radar, so if speed is afactor we can’t enforce it,” he said.

Anding agreed, again frustrated that there don’t seem to be anyanswers to why accidents continue to happen at Laird’sCrossing.

“My question is, the speed limit there is 45. How many speedingtickets have been written by MHP for people who are going 65 or 70through the 45 mph signs?” he said. “It’s not the sheriff’sdepartment’s responsibility. They can’t write you a ticket forspeeding.”

Rushing said the situation seems to be getting worse overtime.

“We’ve lost two people in a little over two months, and I thinkthe quicker this gets done the better, because it seems to beescalating at that intersection,” he said. “And in the meantime,people need to remember to really look before they turn into thetraffic on 84.”

And if there is an alternate route motorists can take, Andingsaid, it’s not crazy to take it just to avoid the situationaltogether.

“My suggestion to Lincoln and Franklin County residents, if youdon’t have to go through Laird’s Crossing, detour around it. If youhave an alternate way to get where you want to go, go around,” hesaid. “If you have to go through it, be cautious.”

Anding said anyone interested in signing the petition shouldcontact a member of the Zetus Volunteer Fire Department.