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Woman’s death sparks demand to slow traffic on Versailles Road

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Magistrates, residents lean on Cabinet to make changes

By Ben Carlson

A Lock Road resident made an impassioned plea Tuesday morning to have the speed limit lowered and alterations made to Versailles Road, and the Anderson County Fiscal Court listened.
By a unanimous vote, the court voted to send a letter to the state’s Transportation Cabinet, asking that the speed limit be lowered to 45 mph from Hilltop Drive all the way the Tyrone Bridge. Not at the meeting were magistrates Buddy Sims and Kenny Barnett.
Phyllis Sharp delivered a petition signed by 39 residents of Lock Road, which intersects Versailles Road roughly halfway between Hilltop and the bridge.
Sharp said the speed limit needs to be lowered before “someone else is hurt or killed on that road.”
She said that in the 50 years she has lived on Lock Road, no changes have been made to Versailles Road despite significant commercial and residential growth on the route that carries an array of commercial vehicles and passenger cars to and from work.
Her request comes just weeks after Lawrenceburg resident Marie Garmon was killed when her van was struck head-on by a dump truck, sending Lawrenceburg into a state of mourning and triggering Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway to call transportation officials and request the speed limit be lowered.
The investigation into that wreck is ongoing by the Kentucky State Police.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Magistrate David Ruggles, who represents that portion of the county and has a farm on Lock Road, said Versailles Road has become very dangerous in recent years.
Ruggles said he has had “hundreds” of near-miss accidents attempting to turn onto Lock Road to access his farm.
“I’m not exaggerating. I can’t tell you how many times I have near wrecks because it happens every week,” Ruggles said. “I try to slow down to turn, but see a dump truck bearing down on me from behind, so at times I’ve turned even when I normally wouldn’t think it was safe.
“It’s a miracle there aren’t more deaths and injuries on that road.”
Following the vote Tuesday, Conway said a letter will be drafted and sent to the cabinet’s District 7 office along with Secretary Michael Hancock.
Magistrates acknowledged that they are powerless to force the speed limit to be reduced, saying that decision rests with state transportation officials.
Conway said he’s already been told that the road will be added the state’s long-range planning list to install turning lanes and other modifications, and that congested area signs are expected to be placed on the road very soon, along with 45 mph suggested speed signs.
Conway, who was quoted in The Anderson News several weeks ago about wanting the speed limit changed, bristled Tuesday about a letter to the editor in the following week’s paper by Transportation Cabinet employee and Lawrenceburg resident Shawn Crowe, who said transportation officials aren’t likely going to lower the speed limit.
In the letter, Crowe referred to Conway’s request as “ridiculous.”
“He called my request ridiculous and said the sheriff ought to do his work instead of being a tax collector,” Conway said, who later added that a business owner on Versailles Road can recall a dozen vehicle deaths since he’s been in business.
“Shawn Crowe doesn’t speak for the cabinet,” said Ruggles, who went on to criticize the letter. “In the beginning [of the letter] he says the road seems to be getting more dangerous. Well, it is. Then, in the rest of the [letter] he talks about how nothing needs to be done.
“I think the Shawn Crowes of the world who don’t drive out there don’t understand the situation.”
Ruggles acknowledged that the road is classified as rural, but said residential and business development along that route have turned into an urban area, and that those capable of lowering the speed limit would be wise to listen to the fiscal court and those who live on or near Versailles Road.
“For someone in Frankfort, from the secretary on down, not to pay attention to this would be a mistake,” Ruggles said.
Conway said he would wait to have the letter written because more petitions are being conducted as of Tuesday morning.