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U.S. 31W median plan needs second look

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Editorial: May 5, 2013

ISSUE: Dividing Dixie with barriers and U-turn cuts
OUR VIEW: Mayor Duvall offers a valid alternative

You can’t fight City Hall.

You’ve heard that adage. It means the folks who make the rules are difficult to challenge when it comes to the rules.

Consider this: Can City Hall fight the Transportation Cabinet?

If you have trouble visualizing the placement of these left turn lanes that lead into U-turns, visit the intersection of U.S. 31W and Ky. 313 on Radcliff’s south end. After serious crashes and a deadly wreck, the barrier near the McDonald’s, Colton’s Steakhouse and Huddle House restaurants and the Five Star convenience store was built by the state.

When traveling south toward Elizabethtown, you must drive past those businesses and double back with a U-turn to stop in for fuel or food. When you come from E’town and visit those businesses and want to head back south, you have to travel further north, turn left into the U-turn lane and proceed from a dead stop to merge into approaching southbound traffic.

Now consider a series of these blacktop barriers absorbing all the median strips from the U.S. 31W Bypass in Elizabethtown to the Wilson Road overpass in Radcliff. Instead of periodic crossovers, a U-turn lane would be placed roughly every 1,200 feet.

The Transportation Cabinet’s district office is confident implementing its plan will reduce collisions and aid in the flow of traffic. A final design is in the works for what’s estimated to cost $5 million. Construction is scheduled to start by 2015.

Duvall, who runs a Radcliff business as well as serving as mayor, thinks the idea is flawed. He expects motorists will find it confusing and simply drive past viable businesses to avoid the about-face required by the center lane U-turns. He also suggests public safety issues will occur because fire trucks are too large to navigate the U-turn lanes.

Duvall is not just raising objections. He should be commended for offering an alternative.

He suggests the state create a consistent line of deceleration lanes in the median throughout the 31W corridor. North Dixie Boulevard in Radcliff beyond the Wilson Road overpass offers a sample of that system. Similar lanes occupy the median along Lincoln Trail Boulevard in Radcliff, too.

The mayor says that system works. Motorists are familiar with it, know how to use it and can get immediate access to any address by easing in and out of the center turn lanes.

Best of all, Duvall says city police are called to fewer auto crashes along the portion of Dixie lined with the median lanes than elsewhere along the road. Safety is a primary reason for the state’s planned changes.

Duvall also considers it appalling these engineering recommendations do not fully consider the impact on business, residents or city government. As the head of City Hall, he’s raising his voice.

But city government does not control the highway that provides the retail lifeblood of its community. The state owns these rights of way and maintains the highway. Duvall’s voice alone cannot sway this decision.

Members of the Radcliff and Elizabethtown business community must speak up. Whether that’s through a one-on-one means or by uniting through the Radcliff Small Business Alliance and the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, those voices must be raised.

Motorists also should speak up by contacting local legislators. Members of the General Assembly have found ways in the past to help the Transportation Cabinet see things differently.

Some would suggest the mayor’s efforts are too little, too late.

The way to address too little is by making this a major issue and uniting behind it. The way to fix too late is by starting that effort now.

Traffic flow and safety along U.S. 31W need to be addressed and improved. The district highway office developed this plan after collecting public input and with good faith. But faced with a viable alternative, it should be fully considered before a $5 million expenditure moves forward.

One voice will not change this course. Adding the newspaper editorial board’s voice in support of Duvall’s suggestion will not win the day either. If you also agree with Duvall on this issue, say so soon and often.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.