EDITORIAL: Safety enhancement

Initial construction on a bridge spanning the intersection of U.S. Highway 45 and Euclatubba Road in Saltillo begins a long-needed solution for traffic safety issues at the increasingly busy crossing.
A $7 million bridge financed with Mississippi Department of Transportation funds from federal sources will lift Euclatubba Road over the busy four-lane, site of many accidents and some fatalities.
The highway was not built as a fully-controlled access artery. Crossings at grade level are numerous its full length in Northeast Mississippi, and many side roads and driveways also are directly linked.
U.S. 45’s and Euclatubba Road’s safety issues rise in large measure from traffic volume, which has increased with Saltillo’s and northern Lee County’s growth, plus the relatively new nearby campuses of two Saltillo schools.
The careless rush and needless risks taken by some motorists using both roads add to the safety concerns.
District MDOT Engineer Bill Jamieson said building the Euclatubba bridge has been MDOT’s highest safety-related priority in the Tupelo administrative district. Federal highway safety funds, Jamieson said, have been in hand for construction, but buying right of way and other property issues delayed implementation of the $7 million project.
Jamieson said in his experience as an MDOT engineer a bridge is always the ultimate solution for high-risk intersections. He said the safety issues always arise more on highways with grade-level intersections. He said many accidents happen because drivers misjudge the time needed to cross four lanes and the speed of on-coming traffic.
Jamieson said roads with grade separations generally have smoother, safer traffic flow with fewer interruptions with less potential for accidents.
Jamieson’s conclusions match nationwide research by the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Highway Safety Administration and many states’ traffic safety agencies.
Jamieson said similar safety issues that had been raised for some intersections in the Booneville area will be alleviated by construction of a new Mississippi Highway 30 bypass.
An important secondary benefit of the new bridge, expected to open in March 2011, will be improved traffic flow in Saltillo, which is growing in all directions. Jamieson described the bridge design as like interchanges on the Natchez Trace Parkway, which use expansive ramps connecting different roadway levels.
Traffic flow increases probably will require assessing additional intersections for grade separation as the Northeast Mississippi region grows, which is an economic positive – with adequate safety provisions.

NEMS Daily Journal