To the point week of 9-17-09

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IT’S TIME FOR THIS COMMUNITY to stand up and demand that something be done.

Earlier this week, for the fifth time in several months, a semi truck flipped over on the same stretch of Highway 129. Rolls of steel came loose; a driver went to the hospital; other drivers sat in long lines waiting for the road to reopen.

All the time, more and more semi trucks were barreling through Vevay along the River Road. Stand at the Shell Station on the west side of town; or at Shop Quik on the east end of town, and it won’t be long before you see a semi truck – no matter what it’s loaded with – going through the county.

Sometimes there’s a line of them. They’re all trying to find a way north now that the Madison-Milton Bridge has been closed to heavy truck traffic. They come from all different directions, but they all are now traveling through Switzerland County on the way to somewhere else.

And – in doing so – they are putting the citizens of this community at risk.

So far, the semi trucks that have flipped over on Highway 129 haven’t injured anyone seriously. They haven’t landed on another vehicle. Most of the damage has been equipment rather than people.

But it’s only a matter of time.

It’s only a matter of time before one of those trucks loaded down with steel flips over at the same time that another car is coming down Highway 129; or someone will be following a bit too closely.

And someone is going to get hurt.

And it’s time for each and everyone of us to stand up, look towards Indianapolis, and demand that state officials once and for all find a solution to this problem. Part of the problem is due to the closure of the bridge in Madison; and at some point a new bridge will stand there, but that’s years away, and the trucks that go up and down 129 each and every day should remind us that perhaps we don’t have years to fix this problem.

But the other aspect of this situation lies in the construction of the roadway itself. Engineers may be able to justify the curve and the speed limit, but real life shows us – all too often – that something has to change. Perhaps lowering the speed limit won’t help fix the problem because of the grade that those trucks are trying to climb; but it’s speed that’s causing those trucks to flip and spill their cargo on our community.

As many of us (okay, all of us) know, just because there’s a speed limit posted, doesn’t mean that it’s the speed that vehicles are traveling.

So if signs won’t slow trucks down, there’s one sure way to slow them down –

Hit their wallets.

I haven’t had many traffic tickets in my life. Mainly I’ve gotten warnings, except for the officer who decided that Easter Sunday was the perfect time to ticket me near Brookville. Of the warnings, a couple of them were on Highway 56 coming east out of Madison.

The road slopes down as you leave the city; and with a 30 mile per hour limit, it’s rather hard to keep it there. So I’ve been stopped – a couple of times. You know what? I make sure I’m not speeding when I go through that stretch of road. Is it because I don’t speed anymore? No, it’s because I don’t want to give away my money.

We need to ask state officials that officers be posted near that area of 129; and when trucks come racing up the hill, they get stopped and they get handed tickets.

Expensive tickets.

Whether they are company drivers or independent contractors, some tickets with large fines attached to them will speak loudly when it comes to slowing them down.

But it can’t stop there.

Our local, county, and state officials need to speak to, go to, or yell at whomever they need to in order to get someone’s attention and get them to understand that we’re serious about the safety of our residents. We aren’t going to sit back and silently wait until we have to bury a member of our community because there is a flaw in the design of that road.

I know it’s a drastic comment, but as I walked around that upside down truck on Tuesday morning, it was a chilling feeling that kept crawling up and down my spine.

We need to make sure that someone knows we’re worried and we’re concerned.

And that something has to be done.