Citizens should not have to sue to save lives

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, July 10, 2012

By MOLLIE BROWN / Guest Columnist

The Interstate 65 northbound ramp at Calera exit 228 has been a death trap for many years. During his terms in office, former Calera Mayor George Roy continually petitioned the Alabama Department of Transportation to lengthen the short ramp. Current Mayor Jon Graham and City Engineer Chris Pappas have tirelessly worked for three years to continue Roy’s mission.

Residents who live in Timberline and other subdivisions at exit 228 must use it daily or travel U.S. 31 north to the exit 231 Interstate bridge, which is not a good alternative due to congested traffic. Each time drivers access the 228 ramp, it’s a gamble as to whether cars, trucks and 18-wheelers driving at speeds of 70 mph, or greater, will move to the left lane to allow them to merge onto the Interstate.

I was told by ALDOT District Engineer Gary Ray at a meeting held June 28 concerning the exit 231 project, “Bridges with structural problems supersede traffic congestion.” Understandable — life is more important than congested traffic. But if the transportation department prioritizes projects based on that, why have roads been paved instead of lengthening the 228 ramp? Is a comfortable ride more valued than life?

The law requires passengers in a vehicle to wear seat belts. Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law House Bill 2 on May 8, which prohibits texting while driving-this law goes into effect Aug. 1, 2012. Yet, ALDOT has done nothing to ensure the safety of life on Calera’s exit 228 northbound onramp other than install a caution light last week that is several hundred feet before the onramp.

The fatality on July 5 is evidence the caution light is not effective. ALDOT must mandate traffic to move to the left lane, and it’s as simple as placing cones, or better a concrete barrier, in the right lane approaching exit 228.

The exit 228 project has been on ALDOT’s back burner long enough. What will it take to convince them to step-up the project? Would a class action suit against ALDOT filed by citizens of Calera spur them to take the project more seriously?

As a citizen of Calera, I believe it’s an action to be considered.

Mollie Brown is a guest columnist for the Shelby County Reporter. She can be reached at