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No red light for Somerville

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

SOMERVILLE — Somerville officials did not get the traffic signal they wanted for a deadly intersection.

But they did get the Alabama Department of Public Safety to lower the speed limit by five miles per hour for about 1,500 feet on either side of Alabama 67 and Main Street/Cut Off Road, at the caution light.

"We hope lowering the speed limit there from 55 mph to 50 mph will cut down on the number of accidents," said Mayor Ray Long. "Our Police Department is strictly enforcing that speed through the intersection."

Records obtained by the town show that since September 1975 at least 83 wrecks, including at least six fatalities, have occurred there. The most recent fatality was Feb. 1, 2006. Other wrecks sent at least 41 people to the hospital.

Long said motorists driving southeast will notice the sign to lower the speed in Somerville near where Broad Street intersects Alabama 67. Motorists traveling northwest to Somerville will notice the change near the old lumberyard site.

Caution light

Long said that the state Department of Transportation erected the blinking caution light in the mid-1970s and installed left-turn lanes in 2001. He said that recent population growth in eastern Morgan County warranted more improvements.

Johnny Harris, division engineer with DOT, told Long about a year ago that he would consider another traffic signal criteria analysis for the intersection, which would include the volume of traffic in each direction for all approaches, including through traffic and turning movements.

"The speed limit in Alabama is 55 mph for a two-lane highway," Harris said at the time. "If our study indicates that speed as posted, there is no justification for lowering it. Then it gets back to an enforcement problem."

He added, "But if we can justify lowering (the limit) from 55 mph, the maximum now established by law, we'll look at making that recommendation. It would have to be done through the Department of Public Safety."

"Lowering the limit is what we got, and we'll take it," Long said. "The state (DOT) told us the intersection did not qualify for a red-light because there wasn't enough traffic on the two side roads."

The road going north at the intersection, Main Street, passes Town Hall. The road going south, Cut Off Road, leads to Hartselle.

Long said the town has pushed for a traffic signal for at least 10 years, beginning during the administration of Mayor J.D. Williams.

"And we're not giving up," Long said. "We'll try again in a few years."

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