We can’t be the first to say it, but let us be next: TDOT, you simply must take action to make the S.R. 63-S.R. 456 intersection safer.
Not one, not two, but three Lifestar helicopters were required to land at Fairview Elementary School on Tuesday, August 6, to transport multiple victims from the latest serious traffic accident to occur at the intersection, where Annadell Road and Winona Road meet S.R. 63. The Tennessee Highway Patrol — which investigated the crash — did not respond to the Independent Herald’s request for a preliminary report showing how the accident occurred or if the intersection played a factor. But reports from the scene indicated that multiple children were among those injured.
Fortunately, all involved in last week’s crash will recover. But how long will it be before the intersection claims another life? People have died there before, and they will again.
Both Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals and Huntsville Mayor Dennis Jeffers have requested TDOT to take a look at the intersection. We hope that State Senator Ken Yager, R-Kingston, and State Representative Kelly Keisling, R-Byrdstown, will lend their voices to the chorus, as they are perhaps best positioned of all to make things happen at the highest levels of the state’s transportation agency.
To be fair, it is believed that the intersection is already on TDOT’s radar. When the agency announced earlier this year that it has, unfortunately, scrapped plans to widen S.R. 63 from Huntsville to Interstate 75, it said that it would instead make spot improvements along that stretch of highway. Mayor Tibbals, who took part in a TDOT meeting, said the S.R. 63-S.R. 456 intersection was among the areas being looked at.
A turning lane is desperately needed on S.R. 63 from its S.R. 456 intersection to its Norma Road intersection — not only to help the flow of traffic and reduce the likelihood of rear-end-type accidents, but also to reduce the number of head-on collisions that occur too frequently along that stretch of highway.
And while no one likes to see the flow of traffic interrupted by a stop light on the highway outside of town, signalization at the S.R. 63-S.R.456 intersection would make a huge improvement to the intersection as far as safety is concerned.
It’s possible that TDOT engineers are already considering both these changes. But in a world where multi-million-dollar road projects move at a snail’s pace, the unfortunate reality is that any real change to the intersection is years away. This is a project that deserves to be prioritized, with real action taken before another avoidable fatality occurs there.
We hope Scott County’s representatives in Nashville will give urgency to the requests that have been made by Mayor Tibbals and Mayor Jeffers that the intersection be improved. For the sake of the thousands of Scott Countians who are streaming east from Huntsville and Oneida every morning to travel to job sites in Anderson and Knox counties, this is an issue that deserves attention.