Time has come to fix problem at Laird’s Crossing

Published 5:00 am Monday, July 27, 2009

Since its creation about nine years ago, the intersection ofHighway 84 and Jackson-Liberty Road – locally known as Laird’sCrossing – has been the site of numerous accidents and too manyfatalities.

A fatal accident happened there shortly after a new four-lanesection of Highway 84 opened in the summer of 2000. And twofatalities have occurred there in the past month.

The most recent tragedies have spurred local and state officialsto take a renewed look at the dangerous intersection.Transportation and law enforcement officials last week werecompiling accident-related statistics on the intersection for thelast several years.

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When the four-lane section opened, MDOT took some safetymeasures – such as oversized traffic signs and rumble strips onJackson-Liberty Road – and promised to take a closer look aftercounty and school transportation officials voiced concerns.

Despite those efforts, it appears that problems persist at theintersection in western Lincoln County. Motorists who live in thearea know well the problems and said they avoid the intersectionwhenever possible.

Concerns about the frequency and severity of accidents at thatintersection sound hauntingly familiar to those of an intersectionon the other side of the county.

In the 1990s and before, the intersection of Highway 84 and EastLincoln Road drew a number of editorials from The DAILY LEADER andfrequent calls from supervisors – mostly notably Cliff Givens, thelate District One board member – for transportation officials to dosomething about wrecks and fatalities there. The problem involvedthe angle of East Lincoln Road’s approach to the intersection andmotorists’ inability to see oncoming vehicles.

The issue came to a head in September 1997 following anotherfatal accident there. At the time, Givens said he knew of sevenfatalities having occurred at the intersection since its creationin the late 1970s.

After first saying it was the supervisors’ responsibility toacquire land to allow the angle of East Lincoln Road to be changed,MDOT officials shortly thereafter agreed to install a four-way stopat the intersection. Since then, safety there has gone up,accidents have gone down, and the intersection’s dangerousreputation has improved.

A similar situation existed in the early 1980s at theintersection of Highway 51 and Highway 84. After lights wereinstalled the situation improved dramatically.

At Laird’s Crossing, officials contend the problem involves a”dip” in the highway that makes vehicles hard to see as theyapproach the intersection from the west.

Local emergency response officials understand the dangersurrounding Laird’s Crossing. Some have started a petition drive tourge MDOT to act.

MDOT officials last week said they were checking the area andplanned to take steps to increase visibility for motorists. Whiledoubting the safety benefits of installing a four-way stop at theintersection, officials indicated the road-related work could bedone by the fall.

Whether a four-way stop, caution lights or road work to heightenvisibility, something must be done and done now. After nine years,no more unfortunate motorists should have to learn firsthand aboutthe intersection problem before it is solved.