A team of transportation experts traveled to Boyle County last week to look for low-cost solutions to the area’s dubious ranking among the counties with the most vehicle crashes.
Boyle is one of six counties, along with Mercer County, with high crash rates chosen to participate in the Safety Circuit Rider program. The local technical assistance program, funded through the Federal Highway Administration and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, identifies a list of city and county routes with high crash numbers, then comes up with recommendations.
Todd Morrison, an engineer who heads the program, brought a multidisciplinary team of experts from the University of Kentucky and the Transportation Cabinet to Boyle County last week. The group examines statistics from the last five years to identify counties with troubling numbers and populations below 50,000.
It is up to the city and county to determine which roads to focus on.
In Danville, Second Street (85 crashes, with 14 injuries since 2006) and Gose Pike (38 crashes, 11 injuries and one fatality since 2006) were selected.
Boyle County picked Wells Landing Road (seven crashes, two injuries), Alum Springs Crosspike (11 crashes, nine injuries), Hayes May Road (five crashes, one injury) and Cream Ridge Road (five crashes, four injuries).
The Circuit Rider team was joined by city and county engineers, as well as law enforcement and fire personnel, who see the results of dangerous areas and often can point out things the raw data can’t reveal. They will have an initial meeting with Mercer Judge-Executive Milward Dedman next week.
Danville Assistant City Engineer Josh Morgan said the city chose the intersection of Second Street with Fackler Street and the bridge over Clark’s Run near Duncan Hill because they have been particularly treacherous. On Gose Pike, the intersection with Baughman was targeted.
“It’s not good news that we are on the list for having high accident numbers, but it is going to be very helpful to us to have them here,” said Morgan.
Boyle County Public Works Director Duane Campbell has served on the steering committee for the program and has seen what it can bring to communities. After observing what it has done for other counties, Campbell was eager for Morrison to visit.
Now that observations have been made in the field, Morrison and others will come up with recommendations. They will include both short-term, cheaper options, like road striping, and more long-term, big-ticket projects for local governments to put on their wish lists.
Reg Soulereytte, a professor with the UK College of Engineering, said there have been some important, if subtle advances in the way traffic engineers can use small changes to effect big results.
In the past, unforgiving methods like the concrete pillars on corners were used to force drivers onto a certain path, often resulting in damage or injury. Now, Soulereytte said engineers can employ things like signs, rumble strips and broken lines that get progressively closer together giving a driver the illusion of going faster, thus encouraging the driver to slow down.
Last year, the data led the Circuit Rider team to Garrard County, where officials selected Fork Church Road and Harmon’s Lick Road for improvements. Suggestions for those routes included curve signage and vegetation removal for sight distance, changes implemented about a year ago. Morrison said the data on those roads is preliminary — more meaningful indicators won’t be available until 2016 — but there does appear to a be slight decrease in crashes.
From 2005-2009, there were an average of 3.8 crashes per year on Fork Church and 1.6 per year on Harmon’s Lick. The numbers dropped to two and zero crashes, respectively, from August 2011 until August 2012.
Morrison said he already is analyzing the data collected in Boyle County and will deliver suggestions soon. From that point, it is largely up to local governments to try to implement the projects. Members of Boyle County Fiscal Court also will get to attend a safety improvement workshop this fall hosted by Bluegrass Area Development District.
Campbell, who said the county is in the running for some other road funds, believes participation in the Circuit Rider program could position the county to receive state and federal money.
Morgan said the program won’t stop paying dividends for the city once changes are made to Second Street or Gose Pike. “It was a good experience for us to see how they do a safety audit,” Morgan said. “We can implement the process and use that on all of our streets in the future. There are things we will be able to do ourselves.”