To the point week of 7-22-10

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THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THE RIVER Road. Again during the past week the eyes of the community have been turned toward accidents involving another roll of steel and a semi truck; we also need to stay aware of the road that many of us travel on a daily basis.

We call it the “River Road”, but whether or not you’re west of Vevay on State Road 56; or east of Vevay on State Road 156; the “River Road” is a winding piece of asphalt that has proven to be as dangerous for drivers as its scenery is beautiful to motorists.

And it is getting more dangerous.

Accidents happen, and no one can prevent them; but there are several recent decisions that have turned up the heat on the roadway.

The State of Indiana last year decided that semi trucks would no longer be allowed to cross the Madison-Milton Bridge. That means that truckers who are trying to get their load north toward Interstate 74 are now left with the Markland Dam Bridge as their only alternative to getting over the river and to northern Indiana.

So those trucks are now crossing at Markland – and driving along the River Road through a large portion of the county, the county seat, and past three of our four schools.

As Belterra Casino Resort and Spa continues to become more and more of a popular destination with visitors, each and every one of them travels down the River Road to get there. Some a very short distance after coming off of the Markland Dam Bridge. Others a longer distance coming from Rising Sun or Madison or points north.

The county has also welcomed members of the Amish community here, and they have become valued members of this community.

Their beliefs and lifestyle have also brought increased horse and buggy traffic to the county and state roads; which translates into drivers of motor vehicles having to pay even closer attention.

Those of us who live here are learning to drive more carefully, particularly in certain areas of the county; but out of towners don’t know all of the county like we do, and more attention needs to be brought to motorists to keep everyone more safe.

Add to that all of Switzerland County’s famous wildlife to the mix, and dodging deer and wild turkeys also make driving here hazardous.

Summer also means that student drivers are out on our roads, and motorists need to continue to be aware of vehicles with “Student Driver” signs on them, and take special care when driving near and around them.

While we can’t do much about certain aspects of our increased traffic, I believe that it is essential for local and county government to continue to press for the lifting of restrictions on the Madison-Milton Bridge in the short term; and for the replacement of that bridge in the long term so that normal commercial traffic can once again use it.

And, as the new bridge is constructed, preliminary plans call for all sorts of solutions to getting workers and others across to the Kentucky side of the river. There may in fact be ferry boats and other means; but I believe that a big percentage of that traffic is going to come right through the heart of Switzerland County.

We as a community have come to expect steel to roll off trucks as they make their way up State Road 129, but last week a semi got off the road and lost its steel just east of town.

I remember several years ago when a semi lost a load of steel just east of Walnut Street in Vevay. The steel landed on a parked car, and when I arrived all I could tell about the vehicle was that it had once been red.

I couldn’t even tell the make – and I was thankful that no one was sitting in it when the steel hit.

The improvements to State Road 129 have been well received by county residents; but it has also caused increased traffic moving through the county – and that traffic is moving faster.

We’ve already seen an increased number of steel trucks roll over at one particular portion of the new roadway; and there are other spots along the corridor that are ripe for accidents. You can’t completely blame the drivers, either, because at that particular piece of roadway on 129, drivers are asked to make their way up a slope, curve to the left, and continue up a grade to the top.

Slow down too much for that curve and the truck won’t ever make it to the top of the second grade; so truckers most of the time gamble that they can keep enough speed to go around the curve and get to the top without losing their payload.

Many times they make it, but when they don’t – people are in danger.

Many improvements have been made by county officials to our county roads; but it is imperative that town and county officials continue to press state representatives and state highway officials about making improvements to state roads that run through this county.

If the Switzerland County Industrial Park, which is currently preparing to welcome its first tenant, begins to welcome more businesses to this county and to the area around the Markland Dam, the matter is only going to intensify.

Now is the time for our voice to be heard.