By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A fatal portion of roadway on south U.S. 25, parallel to Hunter Hills Elementary School, was the topic of discussion Wednesday at the Cumberland Valley Area Development District (CVADD) Regional Transportation Planning Committee. Concerned citizens Oliver “Buddy” Barker and Lori Marcum requested the installation of a traffic light before one more person loses their life because of speed.
“We pick up five kids a day from Hunter Hills, and during the school zone time, it’s the worst,” Marcum said, a mother of two Hunter Hills students and a substitute teacher’s aid for the Laurel County School District. “All these children are being bussed in and bussed out, personally dropped off with their parents everyday, and we’re risking our lives, literally.”
There have been 259 collisions on U.S. 25 in 2012, 54 of them causing injuries, and two were fatalities.
The committee made a motion on Wednesday to re-visit the south U.S. 25 intersection of Hunter Hills for a state traffic survey, a concern well voiced at the latest Laurel County Sheriff’s Town Hall meeting. Marcum stated there’s been numerous petitions for a traffic light submitted by Hunter Hills administration, parents, teachers and community members, but no results. Hunter Hills Elementary is the largest school in the district with approximately 600 students.
“A couple of years ago, they (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet) said they wouldn’t do it because of it would impede the flow of U.S. 25’s traffic,” said Steve Edge, director of City of London Public Works. “We needed it then — I agree with you.”
“I think it’s appropriate to look at it again,” said Jonathan Dobson, public information officer for KYTC.
Committee member Jim Hayes spoke up, stating that for decades a traffic signal was needed at the intersection of Laurel County High School, and a similar concern arose about traffic backing up on the bypass. Eventually, he said, a light was put in place and has since saved lives.
“When you pull out there (from Hunter Hills) and turn left, you’re turning across three lanes of traffic,” Hayes said. “In the wake of all the people killed on U.S. 25, the factor has been speed, people trying to make tracks from London to Corbin and straight stretches.”
Regardless of I-75 being a faster stretch of highway between London and Corbin, many vehicles, including semi-trucks and coal trucks have found it more a more convenient feat to head down a two-lane U.S. 25 with a speed limit of 55, perhaps in order to avoid weigh stations, Barker remarked.
“Since they put a weigh station south between the two (I-75) exits, most of the people running illegally are gong to take U.S. 25…It’s a daily situation,” Barker said.
“We just had an 18-wheeler coal truck flip over by Jerry’s Furniture a couple of days ago. It held up traffic and we couldn’t get to the school,” Marcum added. “Yes, we have deputies that come out on average three days a week and patrol the area, but there’s at least two days a week that there’s nobody there to help the buses get out safely, to help the families that are coming to pick their children up, and somebody’s going to end up getting killed, whether it’s children, and parents trying to get to their children.”
The KYTC will re-visit petitions submitted for a traffic light at the Hunter Hills school intersection, which will engulf a study of the speeds and turning movements.
“There are certain standards that have to be met before a signal can be put in,” Dobson said.
Currently, the widening of U.S. 25 between London and Corbin is in the phase one of design. A second public meeting for the project is yet to take place before preliminary design.
“As of right now, we have not received funding from legislature for phase two of the design or anything related to construction. But we are confident that this project will continue on. There seems to be a lot of support in the community for it, and we assume that the legislature will follow through with funding…but it’s hard to say an exact time frame at this point,” Dobson said.
“This U.S. 25 widening has been on the planning board for some 20 years and it has not been done yet. In advance, I’d hate to wait and see until they realign it but that could be many deaths later,” Hayes.
To voice concerns about roadway safety, visit transportation.ky.gov.