COLUMN: School traffic issuePublished 4:09pm Tuesday, April 9, 2013
No traffic accidents were reported on Bethel Road and Bethel Street between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Mon. April 1, as students drove carefully and steadily, under a layer of dense fog, to attend first day classes at the new Hartselle High School.
Unfortunately, that record was short lived.
At approximately 3:30 p.m. the same day, a student lost control of his car in an “S” curve on North Bethel Street, less than a half mile from the school parking lot, struck a driveway drain pipe and landed in a ditch.
The accident was not a surprise to a man who lives on the outside of the curve.
“I knew it was going to happen,” he said. “It was just a matter of time. Before, the street was used mostly by people who live on it. Now it will be used by students as a way to get to the other side of town. Something needs to be done now to make it safer for them as well as those who live here.”
While steps are underway to upgrade Bethel Road for the additional school traffic, we are not aware of any plan to address Bethel Street’s limited ability to handle a heavy load of traffic. Perhaps that’s because a proposed north bypass road was made a part of the city’s long-range transportation plan long before plans for a new high school began taking shape. The problem is there’s no money to build it and who knows how long its status will remain inactive?
Anyone familiar with the traffic flow at the Main Street and Bethel Road intersection knows how difficult it can be at times to merge into traffic flowing east and west on Main. This problem can be expected to worsen when school lets out at the high school because of the large number of vehicles leaving the campus at approximately the same time. When that happens Bethel Street becomes an option for drivers seeking the fastest possible exit.
Thus, the question of what can be done in a hurry to make Bethel Street safer begs to be answered. Is it lowering the speed limit, installing speed bumps, adding traffic signs or stepping up radar surveillance? This is something the police department and city council needs to address—the sooner the better.