Transportation officials take note of intersection dangers

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive DirectorButch Brown said the dangers of an intersection like Laird’sCrossing are not lost on him.

“I lost my daughter at a crossing just like that one,” he said.”We’re extremely concerned. We hear about those kinds of accidents,and we’re very proactive. While we can’t build intersections withelevated crossings at every one, we can add margins of safety toalert the public.”

A large radar sign telling motorists their speed now sits onHighway 84 just before the intersection. MDOT survey crews aremeasuring and collecting data at the major crossing while officialshave taken their stand and given their word: Changes are being madeat what at this point seems to be Lincoln County’s most dangerousintersection.

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Lincoln County Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said hisdiscussions with MDOT have been more than productive thus far. Hesaid he had discussed with Butch Brown and MDOT Southern DistrictCommissioner Wayne Brown the concerns the board of supervisors andSheriff Steve Rushing have with the intersection.

“I also expressed the danger of that dip in the road, coupledwith how hard it is to see when the sun is setting and that it’scoming out of a curve and how that makes for a very dangerousintersection, which is evidenced by our number of accidents andfatalities there,” he said.

MDOT officials said they have simply asked the county to helpwith the situation by making sure that “rumble strips,” which arebumps in the road that make a noise to alert drivers that anintersection is coming up, are installed on either side of 84 onJackson-Liberty Drive. The strips have been in place for a numberof years.

A team of four surveyors has been collecting data on the lay ofthe land, working toward what MDOT District Engineer Darrell Broomehas said are plans to raise the killer “dip” in the eastbound sideof Highway 84 that makes visibility so bad for motorists.

“There’s another school of thought that says that a four-waystop would make it safer, but that’s not necessarily so,” WayneBrown said. “According to national standards, we can’t just put upstops and signals except where they meet the right criteria.

“We conform to those standards and by conforming to thosestandards we can get federal funds to do these projects,” thecommissioner continued. “We could tell those standards goodbye, andwe’d be telling those funds goodbye.”

Officials have said they hope that work will be under way assoon as the fall of this year. But they also point out that as faras motorist safety goes, there’s no time like the present.

“All I know is from our standpoint there’s been too many wrecksthere, but a lot of them are human error. A lot of them would havebeen avoided by waiting a few more seconds,” said MississippiHighway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Sgt. Rusty Boyd. “If there isa vehicle in that dip, give it time to come up out where you cansee it.”

Both Wayne Brown and Butch Brown brought up the same point.

“We’ve got to get the drivers to accept some responsibility forbeing alert at those crossings,” Butch Brown said. “Whether acrossing is bad, or even good, drivers have to be alert.”

And Wayne Brown pointed out that a few simple seconds can save alife.

“We’re looking at it to see what we could do to improve theintersection to lessen the chance of accidents, but in the meantimewe need people to obey the stop signs, and we need people toproceed carefully,” he said. “Don’t pull up and almost stop, pullup and come to a complete stop.

“Unfortunately, we have 100 similar intersections all over thestate of Mississippi, even in my home county, that have hadfatalities” he said. “Were funding there, we’d put interchanges atall of them, but there’s not.”