A cross marks most recent victim
A newly placed cross bearing Karen Duran’s name along U.S. Highway 90 in Des Allemands bears grim testimony to the lives lost to one of the nation’s most dangerous highways.
After a years long effort to get a traffic signal in the area, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) notified St. Charles Parish Councilman Paul Hogan that the signal had been approved. Hogan and fellow Councilman Billy Woodruff had co-hosted the town meeting in September that brought area officials and residents with the DOTD to request the signal.
The DOTD will install the signal at U.S. 90 and LA 632 (WPA Road), an estimated $180,000 project. Duran’s death heated up the issue, according to Hogan.
The Des Allemands woman, who was on her way to a fundraiser to help a local family member who recently lost their toddler, was killed when the 2004 Chevrolet Silverado she was driving was struck by a 2002 Infinity I35 in July of last year. Duran’s vehicle overturned on the median, ejecting the 61-year-old woman at what residents call a dangerous intersection. She was declared dead on the scene.
Hogan also named Alfred “Tat” Tregle as a casualty to the uncontrolled traffic at the intersection.
“The council has sent resolutions to the state for years to install a traffic signal there,” he said.
For more than 30 years, those requests went unmet while the near misses and fatalities there mounted.
Hogan’s mother, Annabel Hogan, recounted her efforts to improve highway safety after the Jan. 25, 1982 gruesome deaths of a mother and her two youngsters.
All three were waiting for the school bus on U.S. 90 when an 18-wheeler collided with a school bus, overturned and sent large pipe onto the three as they fled. She responded by forming a group called the Concerned Citizens for School Bus Safety.
She is credited with having a sign placed at the accident site to warn pedestrians and bystanders, requiring a school bus pull onto a road shoulder before allowing children to board a bus. Nearly 30 years later, she was still unable to get the traffic signal.
“It was the people’s input (at the town hall meetings) about their fears and concerns that made the difference,” Annabel Hogan said. “It was the people’s voice and it worked. They can thank themselves for getting this done.”
Hogan agrees a town meeting held in September where residents told area officials about their own close calls with the dangerous intersection made a difference.
They credited an estimated 100 people who came to the meeting as the catalyst for getting the signal. The meeting drew state officials, including Sen. Gary Smith and Rep. Greg Miller, as well as local officials including Sheriff Greg Champagne and Parish President Larry Cochran.
Woodruff thanked Smith and Miller’s support for the DOTD approval, as well as pointed to two school traffic lights he helped get installed nearby that likely cleared the way for the light. But he emphasized it was the overall combined effort of all involved who helped upgrade safety at the location.
Annabel Hogan agreed.
“I feel like I’m glad that they did that,” she said. “I think it will improve our safety despite people not liking a red light. It’s either that or death. I believe lives will be saved because of it.”