Russell County citizens praise traffic light at US 431, 165 intersection

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 19, 2013 

For Jessica Luke, manager at Castle Fuels, coming to work through the US 431 and 165 intersection was a dangerous endeavor.

"I'd just go around the intersection and come to work through the back way," Luke said. "I've seen so many accidents there I've lost count."

For years, the intersection has posed a problem for area residents, causing numerous wrecks as drivers attempt to navigate the dangerous split between US 431, 165 and 65. In the past, a caution light was introduced with the goal of reducing speeds near the intersection. Luke said the change produced few results.

"The caution light was a waste of money," she said.

Since the Russell County Commission voted to replace the caution light at the intersection with a traffic light in late March, however, Luke has seen a welcome change in the number of cars crashing near the convenience store.

"I think I've only seen one accident since they put that light up," she said. "People are driving a lot slower. That's a good thing."

The Russell County Commission voted to approve the new light after Commissioner Chance Corbett sent a request to the Alabama Department of Transportation requesting the light.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said the County Commission has requested the light several times during the past few years, but was unsuccessful because traffic moving through the area did not meet the state's standards.

"The County Commission had asked for years for that light to be put up there, and the state is the one that ultimately determines whether that light goes up," Taylor said. "The Commission had asked on three or four years for the state to come in and do that traffic count. Every year they said they didn't have enough numbers."

The intersection has been the site of numerous crashes and fatalities. Taylor said at least four fatalities have occurred at the intersection during the past two years. What's more, the intersection is divided in such a way that, depending on which side drivers find themselves on, they may be served by Sheriff's Deputies, Phenix City Police or state troopers.

"That intersection is a tricky intersection in that part of it the city responds to it, and part of it the county or the troopers respond to," Taylor said. "We got it in the computers, but depending on what side of the road you're on, the city may respond out there or the troopers might respond."

Luke has become particularly used to the sound of screeching tires while working at Castle Fuels. She said her brother was involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler about five years ago, and that about a year ago two men who robbed her store were T-boned by a vehicle while trying to leave the scene.

"There was an elderly couple about two years ago that lost control and went into that ravine," Luke said. "It was really sad, a really bad accident."

Taylor said there had been few traffic accidents and no fatalities since the lights have been put in place. The major adjustment for area drivers now is remembering the traffic light is there. To help with that, four caution lights warning drivers of the red light have been placed up a hill on 431.

"We're having a few people run the light because they're not used to it being there," Taylor said. But it's very well marked. When you're on 431 and you're coming into town it's very well marked. There's too sets of flashing lights that are solar powered that are constantly flashing, as big as Texas, trying to warn people that it's coming."

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