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A wreck on Gordon Terry Parkway at McEntire Lane on Wednesday killed motorcyclist Travis Everett, 22, of Leighton and critically injured his passenger, Rebecca Byers, 23, of Leighton. Some area residents say the intersection is dangerous because drivers heading north and south on McEntire Lane must cross four lanes without a traffic signal.
Daily file photo by Gary Lloyd
A wreck on Gordon Terry Parkway at McEntire Lane on Wednesday killed motorcyclist Travis Everett, 22, of Leighton and critically injured his passenger, Rebecca Byers, 23, of Leighton. Some area residents say the intersection is dangerous because drivers heading north and south on McEntire Lane must cross four lanes without a traffic signal.

Dangerous crossing
Recent wrecks renew call for traffic signal at Gordon Terry-McEntire intersection

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

Recent wrecks on Gordon Terry Parkway at McEntire Lane have revived efforts by area residents to have a traffic signal installed.

Some say the combination of fast traffic from the east and west on the parkway, also known as Alabama 24, and the need for drivers heading north and south to cross four lanes without a traffic signal create a major hazard.

Ann D’Olive of Trinity said collisions at the intersection are nothing new. D’Olive saw so many wrecks there while working for Heaps Quality Auto and Tire Center, she felt compelled to do something.

“I was constantly picking up the phone to dial 911,” she said. “... It was just ridiculous, the amount of accidents that occur at that intersection. Sometimes you might have one every two weeks, but sometimes you might have three in a week”

More than two years ago, D’Olive said, she submitted to the Alabama Department of Transportation a petition with nearly 2,000 signatures asking for a traffic signal, but nothing came of it.

“I would think if 2,000 people signed something saying they wanted a light that that would be enough to get a light there,” she said.

3 wrecks in 5 days

In five days at the intersection in March, The Decatur Daily covered three wrecks involving a total of five injuries, including two in which patients were taken by MedFlight to Huntsville Hospital.

One of those patients, Emmett Philips, 77, of Eva, was ejected from his vehicle and has remained in critical condition in the hospital’s surgical intensive care unit since March 23.

A wreck at the intersection Wednesday killed a motorcyclist, Travis Everett, 22, of Leighton, and injured two others. Everett’s passenger, Rebecca Byers, 23, of Leighton, remained in critical condition in Huntsville Hospital’s surgical intensive care unit Saturday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Though the Department of Transportation keeps data on fatalities, injuries and wrecks at highway intersections, DOT officials declined to release those numbers for Gordon Terry and McEntire Lane, citing the information’s protection under federal law. Traffic counts for the intersection were not available from DOT’s Web site, but the site gave an annual average daily traffic count of 18,210 vehicles traveling on Alabama 24 between McEntire Lane and Old Alabama 24 in 2005.

District 1 Morgan County Commissioner Jeff Clark said he was once involved in a wreck at the intersection, and now he’s hearing complaints from citizens who want a traffic light.

Clark said the installation of signals on Alabama 24 at Woodall and West Morgan roads reduced problems, and a signal could be the solution for McEntire Lane.

The intersection is in Clark’s district, but the county cannot make improvements to Alabama 24 without state approval.

“It’s very expensive to put a traffic light up on a four-lane,” Clark said, “but at some point the state’s got to step up and realize the problem. The state has control of that right of way. It’s their jurisdiction to control the traffic there.”

Clark said cost should not be an issue.

“We would address the problem of funding the light by trying to get funding from the city, the county and the state and maybe the governor’s office,” he said.

DOT officials were not available for comment during the weekend.

County Engineer Greg Bodley said installation of signals on a two-lane road costs about $75,000, and he estimated installing lights at Gordon Terry and McEntire would cost at least twice that. Bodley said he has not personally researched the intersection.

“It’s my understanding the state has done (a review) and says it does not warrant a traffic signal at the present time, but I have not seen that information,” he said.

“It’s left up to them if they want an improvement or change to their roadway. We cannot override the state. We will look at it from our side, obviously, and contact the state and ask them what the status is and what possible solutions they have and what we can do.”

Bodley said there might be other modifications that could make the intersection safer.

Seeking city backing

District 5 Decatur City Councilman Ray Metzger said he sees a traffic light as a life-or-death issue and he wants to get the city behind the effort.

“You’ve got a big divider with four lanes there, and people see that it’s clear and they start across,” he said. “It’s very unfortunate, and I’d like to see something done.”

While the intersection is outside the city limits, it affects some of Metzger’s constituents who live in a developing area accessible only through unlighted intersections.

Martha Powell, who lives on Sims Road Southwest in Decatur, said she periodically called DOT officials about the intersection over the last two years.

“We go that way to church and we go that way to town,” Powell said.

“There have been four fatalities that I know of up there and there’s an average of one to two wrecks a week,” she said. “We go by there more than one time a day, and we hear (the wrecks) on the scanner. ... I don’t want my grandchildren going that way because it’s so dangerous. We’ll see as many as four cars stacking up (waiting) in that median.”

Among complaints about the intersection: speeding on Alabama 24, which has a 55-mph limit; multiple vehicles waiting to cross in the median; an exit peeling southeast from the intersection to Beltline Road, making the travel directions of some drivers unpredictable; and a growing number of vehicles traveling on McEntire due to the development of plants, apartments and subdivisions.

Metzger said traffic on McEntire has recently increased as a result of drivers trying to avoid construction along Beltline Road Southwest, which is undergoing an 18-month widening project. The intersection lies within the Decatur police jurisdiction, and Metzger said he would ask police for help monitoring speed and controlling traffic as a temporary fix.

Erica Jeffreys of Hartselle said modifications to control traffic would ease her mind.

A collision there in 1997 caused internal injuries, leading to the removal of her spleen and reconstruction of her liver and a major artery.

“They told my parents I wasn’t going to make it through the night. But, by the grace of God, I made it,” said Jeffreys, who spent seven days in Decatur General Hospital and another three months in recovery.

Jeffreys still travels Alabama 24 regularly to reach her parents in Trinity and her job in Moulton.

“Almost 10 years later, it still scares me to go through there,” she said. “... I don’t know what can be done about it, but there’s got to be something that can be done. Some of the accidents are bad like mine. My heart goes out to those families. I wish there were a way for people to not have to go through what I and my family went through.”

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