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Our View: Straighten Plank Road, save lives

Published: Friday, July 25, 2014 12:04 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 7:54 a.m. CST

Seemingly every time someone dies in a traffic crash around the intersection of Plank Road and Moose Ridge Road, there’s talk about straightening the curve there.

And then nothing happens until the next time someone loses their life.

Today, county officials said there is a plan to straighten Plank for 1.5 miles east and south of Moose Ridge, a broad solution that will cost about $6 million and take 20 years.

Assuming current trends hold, that makes it likely that only two more people will die before the problem is solved.

That is, presuming it is solved within the 20-year window that transportation officials have given. The funny thing about deadlines that are decades in the future is that rarely is anyone held accountable for meeting them. People move on. They retire. They forget.

Until the next tragedy.  Two people who have died in crashes at the intersection in the past 11 years were riding with people who were accused of driving under the influence.

For one, that’s not a mistake for which one deserves to die. For another, intoxicated drivers accounted for only 4 percent of the crashes at the intersection in the past five years, a Daily Chronicle analysis of the crash reports shows.

Most people who crashed there were driving too fast for conditions, although that can mean a lot of things. If the roads are dry, it could mean they are speeding. If they’re icy, 20 mph could be too fast.

The suggestion of installing stop signs or a traffic light there does not make sense. The traffic levels there do not merit these traffic control devices, which are not designed to slow traffic but to improve the flow of traffic.

We appreciate that county officials have sought grants for straightening this stretch of roadway. They should continue to seek them. A 20-year timetable for change seems, to us, unrealistic and unlikely.

The fact that human drivers sometimes make bad decisions can not be changed. But the roadway can be changed, and doing so will save lives.

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