Dow fights for light at dangerous intersection

Recent accident sends 6 to hospital

How many people have to die or get injured to get a traffic light erected at a dangerous intersection on the highways of Louisiana? It’s a question on the minds of some who travel to work along Louisiana Highway 3127 between Luling and Killona.

Since 2010, the employees of Dow Chemical noticed an increase in accidents and near-miss accidents in front of their plant entrance, which is located at the intersection of Highways La. 3127 and  La. 3142. One of those accidents took the life of a Dow Chemical employee of 20 years.

“We are the largest employer in this area,” said Tommy Faucheux, southeast region government affairs leader for Dow. “So naturally we have the most traffic with our  thousands of employees coming to and from work and we felt something needed to be done, not just for our own safety, but for the community at large.”

Faucheux said he and some others believe a traffic light at the intersection would resolve the problem.“We are not public safety officials,” Faucheux said. “But as concerned citizens, and people who are in a position to see this intersection on a daily basis, it seemed like a fairly common sense solution.”

Faucheux explained the speed limit on La. 3127 is 65 miles per hour, while the speed limit on La. 3142 is 45 miles per hour.  Stop signs are posted on both the north and south lanes of the intersection where the two-lane highway intersects with La. 3127. Going from a dead stop and crossing the intersection is particularly hazardous when you consider a car traveling around 70 miles an hour comes up on a vehicle just beginning to accelerate from a stop sign to cross over four lanes of traffic.

The Dow Chemical employees, along with representatives from Entergy, who also have a plant in the area, approached the St. Charles Parish Council for help. And while Faucheux feels the council did everything it could, including passing resolutions to deal with the situation, ultimately, the final word rested with the state Department of Public Transportation, which has its own set federal highway standards to meet before it can alter the highway.

“Now that is a very frustration process, I’ll be honest,” Faucheux said. “The state department did listen to us, they did do some investigation and I give them credit for that. They looked into the official record for accidents, they put down devices that measured the traffic flow and number of vehicles that used the intersection, but when they were finished they said there was not enough traffic volume to warrant any improvements or changes.”

But Faucheux argues those estimates the state gathered could be very misleading.

“The traffic Monday through Friday is going to be much heavier than it is on the weekends,” he said. “And there are peak times of the day, like say at shift change, where again your going to find more volume.”

And even though local officials and industries tried to explain that to the state, it wasn’t enough at the time to have any changes made.

Until last year.

With an estimated 14,000 vehicles traveling these routes and accidents continuing to happen, the state could argue no more – it finally made some alterations to the intersection. They built a turning lane and constructed acceleration lanes on both the eastbound and westbound lanes of La. 3127 right in front of the Dow Chemical entrance.

But is it enough?

Faucheux said he’s glad some improvements were made, but he’s hesitant to say whether or not the new construction will alleviate the danger.

Apparently, he has cause for concern.

On Feb. 21, a group of people traveling along La. 3127 drove through the intersection at La. 3142, complete with it’s new improvements, and rear-ended a vehicle.

The collision caused the driver, 21-year-old Emily Charles, to lose control of her 2007 Honda CRV and the vehicle flipped, left the highway and landed upside down in a water filled ravine, nearly drowning two passengers who were trapped in the cargo section of the SUV. Charles herself was trapped by her seatbelt, sitting upside down breathing in water and losing consciousness before she was freed from the wreck.

The passengers were aided in the rescue of their friends from a passerby and first response team members from Dow Chemical.

“All of our local officials are still very much aware of our needs and concerns,’ Faucheux said. “Moving forward, we want a traffic light.”

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