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Lower speeds on highways in Hartselle

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The state Department of Transportation is not going to let Hartselle install a traffic light at Sparkman Street, Lane Road and U.S. 31.

But, sometime this year, speed limits will drop in the municipal limits on U.S. 31 and Alabama 36.

A state-sponsored speed study suggested lowering the speed limit from 50 to 45 mph on U.S. 31 from Hayes Street to Vaughn Bridge Road. The city asked ALDOT to extend the distance from the bridge north of Dairy Queen to Sparkman Street. The distance covers about 2.5 miles.

“We think this is in the best interest of the citizens of Hartselle,” Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

About 23,500 vehicles daily travel the highway where the speed is to be lowered, according to 2006 ALDOT statistics.

It’s also a stretch of roadway where Hartselle has experienced significant commercial growth, including about $10 million in investments the past two years.

The state study recommends speed-limit changes on sections of Alabama 36. ALDOT wants to lower the speed limit between Bethel Road and East Highland Baptist Church from 50 to 35 mph. After passing the church, the speed limit will increase to 45.

On Alabama 36 west, the state wants to make the speed limit 45 mph from Crestline Drive to Shaw Road. The city is asking ALDOT to increase the distance another 990 feet to Hampton Road.

“There is a hill near Shaw Road that we have some safety concerns about,” Tankersley said.

The council has received few complaints about traffic on Alabama 36. But, David Woods of Edgewood Street near U.S. 31 and former school board Chairman Ronnie Abercrombie requested the traffic and light study on U.S. 31.

Abercrombie’s family owns a car dealership on U.S. 31, and an employee of the company died in an accident on the road in 1988.

City leaders and the state said data such as accidents and fatalities don’t support putting a traffic light on U.S. 31.

Council President Kenny Thompson said he understands their concerns, but noted that the state does not arbitrarily install traffic lights.

Thompson was on the council in 1980 when the state denied Hartselle’s request to lower the speed limit on U.S. 31 from 50 mph. “A lot of things have changed since then, so I guess that’s why they approved it this time,” he said.

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