Airline Highway study reopened

Proposal urges leaders to barricasde dangerous roadway

July 19, 2007 at 9:26 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

After a controversial study of Airline Highway barred barricades from being put in place, Sen. Joel Chaisson and Rep. Gary Smith have changed the minds of the house committee and the study of U.S. 61 will be reopened.

In the resolution, written by Smith and Chaisson, Smith urged the Louisiana Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of putting guardrails in place along U.S. Highway 61 from St. Charles/Jefferson Parish line to LA 48 in Norco.

“We need some sort of barricade along this dangerous stretch of roadway,” Smith told the Herald-Guide.

Johnny B. Bradberry, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, allowed $800,000 of improvements to be made along U.S. 61 (Airline Highway) in early 2005, based on recommendations made by the U.S. 61 Task Force Committee.

At the request of Chaisson and Smith, the U.S. 61 Task Force Committee was formed to investigate two fatal crashes resulting in six fatalities that occurred on U.S. 61 between I-310 and LA 48 in the spring of 2003.

The Committee is composed of representatives from DOTD, the Louisiana State Police, the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office, the St. Charles Parish President’s Office and the Federal Highway Administration.

“Since 1993 there have been a total of 1,500 crashes along the highway and we need to protect our motorists,” Smith said.

A public meeting was conducted on April 28, 2004 at Destrehan High School to solicit comments from the community and interested parties. The crash history and possible countermeasures were presented at that time to the attendees.

With all of the improvements made to the highway, accidents continue to occur, Smith said, and barricades weren’t considered a safeguard resolution to the problem.

In the brief synopsis below, the committee lists its recommendations for putting in highway improvements rather than barricades.

Final Recommendations from the first study of Airline Highway:

Public Education – Many Louisiana drivers do not know how to escape a vehicle submerging in water and the corresponding importance of seatbelt usage. Seatbelts are the best way to ensure that drivers and passengers remain in their seating position and are not thrown out of or about the vehicle, which can result in unconsciousness or severe injury. The committee recommended that a public information / education campaign be developed for southern Louisiana stressing the importance of properly using occupant restraint systems, and methods for escaping a submerging or submerged vehicle. The committee also recommended that steps be taken to incorporate this information into the driver’s education program statewide.

Median Crossovers – LA DOTD conducted a review of all crossovers along the study section. As a result of this review, five crossovers were identified for closure. Construction of two new crossovers will be required to provide driveway access when the five crossovers are closed. Three existing crossovers were recommended for upgrading by widening. Additionally, a previous review identified five crossovers that could be closed. These crossovers were closed in February of 2004.

Left Turn Lane Improvements – Left turn lane improvements have been identified at three locations where the existing median widths allow. Exclusive left turn lanes and U-turn lanes will remove turning traffic from the through traffic lanes.

Traffic Control Improvements – The following traffic control improvements have been identified and recommended: painting and paving of raised medians at all crossover locations for a distance of 50 feet from the median’s raised edge (formally referred to as a “nose”), installing reflectorized markers on the median “noses”, installing crossover and advance crossover signs to give advance notice of each crossover, installing reflectorized pavement markers on the shoulder between the edge line stripe and rumble strips in both directions and replacing existing outside edge line striping with enhanced pavement striping in both directions. se traffic control improvements will provide enhanced identification and improved advance notification of crossovers as well as increase visibility during inclement weather conditions.

“The highway is still extremely dangerous despite these improvements and my hope is that this time, when the committee looks at the study, they will consider the accidents that are continuing to occur despite all of the improvements made,” Smith said.

No date has been set to reorganize the committee.

“Mr. Bradberry is in charge of letting us know exactly what next steps will be taken. We’re just pleased that the study of Airline Highway is being reopened.” Smith said.

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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