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The intersection at Three Corners is an accident waiting to happen.
No recent injury collisions have occurred where Hammond Road, Ninevah Road and Highway 326 meet, but they will, Magistrate David Montgomery said.
Change at the Three Corners will happen when someone gets killed in the intersection, he said.
“The way I’m looking at that, [the Transportation Cabinet’s] going to have to wait until a really bad accident happens before they’ll do anything, and I don’t agree with that,” the 5th District magistrate said.
Back in November 2012, the fiscal court’s transportation committee met to discuss solutions to improve safety at the intersection.
Including one particularly “dangerous” blind spot, according to Montgomery, for those drivers traveling north from Ninevah Road to Highway 326, or heading south into town from Highway 326.
Ninevah Christian Church, located between Ninevah and Hammond Roads, has grown in the last decade, Montgomery, and so have the subdivisions and the number of drivers visiting Lovers Leap Winery, about 2 miles from Three Corners.
“The church already has a second entrance and I’ve notice that a lot of the traffic uses that entrance, which has helped,” Kelli Buckley, a Ninevah Road resident and Ninevah Christian Church member, said via e-mail. “In all honesty, the church traffic is not that big of a problem, it’s the all-day traffic that’s using Hammond as a cut through to 127.”
“We’ve got a whole lot of new people coming and going, not just the residents,” Montgomery said in a phone interview last week. “The residents out there know the curves, the curves’ been there forever.”
The local transportation committee proposed several solutions, from cutting back brush to installing warning signs to shaving off 15-20 feet of the problematic bank that can limit drivers’ sight distance through the curve.
“That’s the only solution, the way the bank is set up,” Kelli Buckley’s father-in-law Scott Buckley, who has lived at 1402 Ninevah Road for more than 30 years, said. “Shave the bank off.”
“If they just sloped it out, it’d really make a difference,” Scotty Buckley added. “I could do it in about two hours.”
The Transportation Cabinet, since that November meeting, has sent work crews to mow the bank and remove vegetation, and should continue to do so through the summer months, according to traffic engineer Logan Baker.
Baker said the warning signs already out in the intersection didn’t need any more work. There are enhancements that could have been done, Baker said, such as adding reflective yellow tape down some of the signs’ posts, but doing so would make the warnings less effective in terms of improving safety.
“If we do that every where, then there’s nothing left to enhance,” Baker said. “It just becomes standard and that extra enhancement doesn’t mean anything.”
As for cutting down the bank? Not cost effective, according to the Transportation Cabinet.
“We have determined it is not beneficial to pursue any of the proposals to change the geometry of the curve,” a Dec. 11 letter from the Transportation Cabinet to County Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway said. “This would not be cost effective considering the absence of accident history, existing utilities in the area, and that sight distance is much improved for the intersection when the existing fence is kept clear of vegetation.”
According to Anderson News reports from the November committee meeting, excavating and cutting back the bank would cost the Transportation Cabinet $20,000-30,000, not including the inevitable relocation of utilities.
State engineers also proposed in letter to work with the property owner to remove the old woven wire fence and posts to improve the sight line.
Ninevah Christian Church was already planning to remove the entrance that opens directly onto Hammond, decreasing traffic in the intersection, according to the document.
But the state avoided the real issue, Terry Cooper, senior minister at Ninevah Christian Church, said.
The real issue is visibility in the curve, he said, which would be improved by cutting down the bank.
After 13 years of dealing with Three Corners, he said he knows it’s not an easy problem to fix.
If it were, the intersection would have been fixed the times the state has sent engineers out to Ninevah over the years, Cooper said. Or after hundreds of people submitted a petition to Kentucky state Sen. Julian Carroll to no result, he said.
“That would solve everything [cutting down the bank], but I think there is a landowner issue there,” Cooper said of removing some of the inside curve’s bank. “I can’t believe that there isn’t some reasonable action that could be taken by the state. I hate to think someone has to be killed in that intersection before there could be done something.”
But according to Conway, it won’t be possible to cut down the height of the bank because of existing utility lines and Conway’s reluctance to take that piece of land away from Charlie Wilson, who owns the bank and adjoining acreage.
“I agree that the sight distance is better is that they’re keeping it mowed down,” Conway said, adding he went out in a smaller vehicle to test if there was better visibility in the inside curve. “We’re still looking in to what we need to do to fix it on our end.”
Because the upcoming fiscal year’s budget has not been set yet, Conway said, he does not know how much or if any money will be allocated for improvements at Three Corners.
David Cartinhour, who lives about a mile and a half from Three Corners at 1557 Clifton Road, agrees with Buckley and Cooper in leveling the bank, but appreciates the cabinet and the fiscal court trying to come up with solutions.
“I guess we’re going to have to live with it,” Cartinhour, who has lived on Clifton for about seven years, said, but … “shaving [the bank] or moving the utilities is a lot cheaper than somebody’s life.”
According to traffic engineer Baker, there haven’t been any car accidents at the Three Corners intersection in recent years; the last reported crash he’s found was in 2008, when a driver hit ice and slid off the road.
But does it matter if there is a lack of reported accidents if improvements would save someone’s life?
“We get that question a lot,” Baker said Monday morning. “While that is a valid concern, we do have places in the district where we are having problems, and those are the places we want to address first while being proactive in other places with signage, pavement striping and pavement rehab.”
Property owners, and the magistrate, still wonder, however.
“They’re [residents] just wondering about the same thing I’m wondering,” Montgomery said.
“Does somebody have to get killed up there before they do something?”