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News-Enterprise: Make I-65 stretch safer before more lives are lost

March 31, 2010

The Interstate 65 crash in Hart County last week that killed 11 has attracted national attention, including the beginning of an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

As the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise editorial board writes today, it’s about time – even past time – for such focus on the safety problems along the four-lane stretch where last week’s crash occurred. Safety cable barriers installed following previous fatal wrecks along the stretch did little to prevent last week’s crash, which occurred when a tractor-trailer crossed the median and slammed into a van.

From the editorial

Cable barriers are designed to stop box trucks and cars, but not semis. Concrete barriers are needed to do that.

Our interstate system, which is unparalled in the world, was developed for national defense and commerce. Commerce means trucks. Big trucks. And I-65 carries more than its share of commercial traffic.

Because interstates are used by everyone from Mennonite families and commuters to tourists with wanderlust, shouldn’t the safety system be designed to accommodate all traffic, particularly on a highway that last year was listed as one of the most dangerous in the nation?

No matter the cause of Friday’s tragedy, we expect the NTSB study will find that the “bottleneck” effect created when I-65 narrows from six lanes to four in Hart County is a problem and the team will approve of the Transportation Cabinet’s plan to widen the highway and incorporate concrete barriers in the design.

One answer is the installation of concrete barriers in the median, but the broader solution suggested by the editorial board and others is widening the interstate. But as the editorial states, it shouldn’t take another life to convince transportation planners that these safety additions are necessary.

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