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Hartselle won’t get light on U.S. 31
State studying whether to lower speed limit

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Don’t expect the City Council to install a traffic light at Sparkman Street, Lane Road and U.S. 31.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said there is a reason Hartselle left money out of its capital improvement budget to pay for a study to determine if the light was needed.

“Basically, the state told us we would be wasting our money,” he said, noting that the Alabama Department of Transportation does not arbitrarily put up traffic lights.

Data must support placing a light on state highways, such as number of accidents and fatalities.

Accidental deaths

There has not been an accidental death near the intersection since 1988, and based on Hartselle Police Department statistics, the area is one of the safest in the city.

“There’s just not a history here to support putting a traffic light,” Council President Kenny Thompson said.

David Woods, who resides on Edgewood Street near U.S. 31, and former school board Chairman Ronnie Abercrombie requested the traffic study and light.

“I’m disappointed that people have to die before the state will consider placing a light,” Abercrombie said. “What about doing things to prevent death?”

Abercrombie’s family owns a car dealership on U.S. 31, and it was an employee of the company who died at the intersection in 1988.

“This accident could have been prevented if the traffic light was there,” he said.

As for lowering the speed on U.S. 31, Tankersley said DOT is doing a state-paid survey to determine if it should lower the speed limit from 50 mph.

Woods wants Hartselle to lower the speed limit from Lane Road to just north of the Dairy Queen.

While the light may be an issue, the council majority thinks data will support the city’s request to lower the speed limit.

According to city records, DOT posted the 50 mph speed limit before 1978.

Previous request

Thompson was a councilman in the early 1980s when the city requested but the state denied lowering the speed limit.

“A lot of things have changed since then,” Thompson said.

A daily average of 23,540 vehicles use the highway at the busiest spot in Hartselle, according to DOT’s latest count.

That compares to 30,000 or more vehicles a day that use U.S. 31 through a 40 mph zone in Decatur.

The biggest change is construction of the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

The state installed a traffic light for the store, but since then, more than $15 million worth of development has occurred on U.S. 31.

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