U.S. 231 S: Are barriers needed?

Published 9:22 pm Friday, March 11, 2011

After six fatalities in four months along a four-mile stretch of U.S. 231 south of Troy, Police Chief Anthony Everage is fielding questions he can’t answer.

“We have had people express concerns about the fatalities occurring on that stretch of road in our jurisdiction,” he said Friday. “I think that’s something the Alabama Department of Transportation controls.”

And, Everage said, he thinks it’s a question that merits discussion.

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“I don’t know if there’s an easy solution, but it’s definitely worth looking at,” he said.

Monday’s head-on collision that claimed the life of a Troy woman, her child and a Brundidge woman was the third in four months to occur just south of Troy along U.S. 231. Two teens died in December 2010 when the vehicle in which they were riding hit an icy patch of roadway and crossed into oncoming traffic. On New Year’s Eve, a female passenger in a vehicle died when the car in which she was driving veered into oncoming traffic.

In all three cases, vehicles crossed the center turn lane, which includes no type of barrier.

“On that stretch of road, there’s just no margin for error if you cross that median,” Everage said.

Tony Harris, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said while the department is aware of the accidents that have occurred along U.S. 231 South of Troy, “we don’t see anything to lead us to believe the roadway or design of the roadway in anyway contributed to the crash.”

In fact, Harris said, “you have to look at the cause of the crash.”

In the first accident, officials determined the weather was the cause. In the second, the driver of the vehicle was charged with first-degree murder and first degree assault; the third accident is still under investigation.

“We review crash data and look for trends that would signal a need to make changes,” Harris said. “… If we saw a trend there, if we saw the same type of crash occurring over and over again, there would be cause for concern. But there’s such a randomness there, it’s hard to make an argument that you need to plow up the center turn lane and put up a concrete barrier wall.”

Harris said U.S. 231 is a state highway and, as such, is not a limited-access highway, meaning it has more on-off access points than an interstate highway. Because of that, it requires different types of center lane access. The area south of Troy, for example, at one time was more rural.

“But it’s a transitional area,” he said. “It’s not really rural anymore. And the center turn lane is essential for safety.”

The department does provide various types of barriers. On interstate highways, concrete barrier walls are common, Harris said. “In more rural areas on interstates, we’ve installed over 200 miles of cable-barrier rail in the last five years.”

Jake Blocker contributed to this report.