Improvements Coming to Deadly Stretch of Highway 72 in Limestone County
On Monday city officials in Athens learned a deadly stretch of roadway in their community will soon get a safety upgrade to the tune of five to seven million dollars. It’s to add a continuous turning lane on a 12 mile stretch of Highway 72.
Since 1994, 34 people have died on that stretch of the highway. By the end of this summer, improvements will be made to make it safer.
Traffic studies have shown 30,000 vehicles travel daily on Highway 72 in Limestone County through Athens.
“There was a lot of hydro-planing when the road was wet and then there was no safe way to turn off the highway,” said Holly Hollman, spokeswoman for the city of Athens.
She lives near the area of concern and in the past has reported on the accidents that happened there.
“Every time I was called out as a reporter to cover a fatality, I would think, ‘Is this going to be somebody I know?’” she said.
Monday, the Alabama Department of Transportation confirmed the concerns from Hollman, the Athens mayor, and residents along the roadway, have been heard.
A spokesperson for ALDOT confirms in two weeks they’ll open bids for a project to widen and resurface the road and make safety improvements, including adding a continuous turning lane.
“There’s so much traffic down through there,” said Terry McElyea, a clerk at a gas station along the highway. “It’s hard to turn off either way.”
McElyea says he hears emergency sirens often responding to incidents along 72. He knew one of the 34 people that have been killed on it since 1994.
He’s relieved to hear about the upcoming roadwork to make it a safer drive for everyone who uses the road.
The bids will be read on July 27th, then the state will take about three weeks to settle on the contractor and submit their recommendation to the governor.
Afterwards, the contractor will have 180 working days to complete the project.
The construction zone will go from mile marker 59, near the Elk River to mile marker 72 near Athens.