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Interstate proves its worth

If you’ve traveled anywhere in Hartselle or surrounding area over the past few days you know one thing for certain: It’s a hair-wringing mess trying to get from one place to another. For example, instead of getting through the Highway 31 and 36 intersection on one or two traffic light changes the wait has increased to four or more.

The reason for the delay is the shutdown of northbound traffic on I-65, between the Highway 36 and Priceville exits. Contract workers are repairing an eroded shoulder on a 500-ft. stretch of the highway where a sink hole occurred last March. The work began Mon., Feb. 13, and could last through this week.

In an effort to expedite the traffic flow on Highway 31, the Alabama Department of Transportation decided to take a different approach than the one it used in 2011. Heavy trucks were detoured at the Lacon exit and Hartselle traffic lights were adjusted to give the truckers more green as they passed through the city. Granted, it helped the truckers but it left local drivers wanting to cross the highway stranded for several minutes. Also, during peak traffic times long lines of traffic was backed up at Highways 31 and 67 and on Highway 67in Priceville.

Another move that caused a local problem was giving light vehicles, (cars, SUV’s and pickup trucks) the option of either exiting I-65 at Thompson Road or Highway 36. Most drivers apparently made the decision to drive as far north as possible, probably thinking they would be better off exiting on Highway 36, east, instead of joining the trucks at Thompson Road and Highway 31. What they didn’t realize was this detour route is five miles longer, 10 miles of which is two lanes, and requires a stop and wait at the highway 36 and 67 four-way stop.

The sight approaching that intersection was not a pretty one, either for local drivers or through drivers. What amounted to two miles of backed up traffic at that junction Monday through Thursday swelled to four miles on Friday afternoon. It was taking more than an hour for traffic to reach the intersection. The situation worsened after nightfall when a wreck in the west bound lane blocked traffic both ways. Three emergency vehicles coming from Hartselle were forced to drive in the middle of the highway between two lines of stalled traffic for approximately two miles.

Hopefully, this situation will never reoccur. But if it does ALDOT would be wise to use a high tech communications system to keep the motoring public better informed.