The day will come when smart people from Anniston and Montgomery will join hands and decide, finally, that this community can’t simply accept fatal accidents as a recurring course of events at the U.S. 431-Coleman Road intersection.
Today isn’t that day.
Today we mourn the death of Jimmy Goodwin, of Weaver, who died in Friday afternoon’s five-vehicle wreck, and pray for the recovery of those hospitalized. For now, that’s what matters.
But we’ll be blunt: One way or another, the Alabama Department of Transportation and other invested parties — the city, the Anniston Police Department and trucking advocates — must commit to increasing safety at what has fast become one of the most dangerous intersections in Calhoun County, if not the worst.
Granted, the task seems impossible. The Veterans Memorial Parkway portion of U.S. 431 was designed as a fast-track route to McClellan and Alabama 21 north of downtown Anniston, and it is. But the steep, downhill grade of the southbound lanes near the intersections with Henry and Coleman roads has created a deadly problem for anyone who drives in that part of Calhoun County.
That grade would likely prevent ALDOT from installing a stop light at the Henry Road intersection of U.S. 431 because of the hazard it would create for heavy trucks who can’t stop at those speeds. Any highway steep enough for a runaway truck lane — which U.S. 431 South has — is a terrible candidate for a stoplight. Keeping trucks off the parkway is a non-starter. Since the parkway opened, ALDOT has lengthened the merging lane from Henry Road, the speed limits have been altered and signage on the parkway’s southbound lanes has been improved with better lighting.
Quite frankly, we’re unsure of the best course. We’re not traffic engineers. But we’re deeply saddened by Friday’s fatality, as we were with the deaths of Billy Ray Jones and Kimberly Ann Jones in a December wreck, and Tyree Hunter in a March accident at the Henry Road intersection.
We’ll be blunt, again: It’s inconceivable that we’re stuck with what we have — a dangerous confluence of intersections, trucks, passenger vehicles, excess speeds and fatal wrecks.