“It will take your life in a minute,” many push for changes on Alabama Highway 45

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) — Within the past month, there have been two fatal accidents on Highway 45.

Local officials want to be heard about the issues they see on the highway. They hope someone will hear their pleas to make the highway safer.

More than 75 people have been killed in the past five years along the 60 miles of Highway 45 that stretches through Alabama.

“The sad thing is, is how many more lives is it going to take.”

Liz Outlaw

Outlaw lost her granddaughter, Hannah Wright, in March. Wright was a passenger in a car driven by fellow Baker High School student, Rene Nguyen. Police say they didn’t stop at a stop sign at the intersection of University and Highway 45.

This week marked four months since she was killed. “She never leaves my mind, she never leaves my heart,” said Outlaw.

Outlaw says she’s been pushing for changes along Highway 45. She wants there to be a flashing light or lights at the intersection where her granddaughter was killed.

“Every time I hear the news that someone else has been hurt or killed on Highway 45, it’s like I just want to storm that building and do something.”

Liz Outlaw

She’s not the only one. Washington County Sheriff, Richard Stringer, has been trying to get someone in Montgomery’s attention for years. “We just seem to be talking to deaf ears,” said Stringer.

He says he’s seen traffic at least double along the highway in the last few years. “Highway 45 much of the time looks like Airport Boulevard without any red lights. So you can imagine without any red lights, the speed at which they’re running,” said Stringer.

The highway runs 1,298 miles from Michigan to Alabama. Stringer says the only stretch of that road that’s two-lane is the 60 miles in Alabama.

He attributes some of the problems to the amount of traffic on the highway.

Just last week, he sent a letter with his concerns to Governor Kay Ivey, she sent a letter back, ultimately telling him to contact the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).

“I’ve lost a lot of friends…I’ve lost loved ones on Highway 45, ‘Bloody 45’. Something has to be done; we’ve got to get someone’s attention.”

Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer

Stringer says he has been getting help from State Representatives Shane Stringer and Brett Easterbrook. When asked for an update, State Representative Stringer said he is trying to schedule another meeting with Governor Ivey and the ALDOT director.

When WHNT affiliate WKRG reached out to Governor Ivey’s office, they were deferred to ALDOT.

ALDOT released this statement about Highway 45:

“ALDOT has developed a system to analyze our two-lane roads and to identify the ones with the most significant deficiencies needing to be addressed across the state. That system focuses on characteristics such as total traffic count, rush-hour or ” surge” traffic levels, and the cost to solve the problem as it relates to road miles per average daily traveler in the corridor. Overcrowded two-lane roads is one of the categories (along with local road needs, large road congestion and economic development roads) specifically anticipated to be addressed with Rebuild Alabama funds. Unfortunately, however, the amount available under this program remains small in relation to the overall problem, meaning that we address about one project per year statewide in this category. We use this system of priorities to select the project we address each fiscal year. US Highway 45 has some characteristics that lower its ranking in this system. Its total traffic count ranks it well down the list. In addition, because of the nature of this corridor, the anticipated total cost to widen the road is over $300 million whereas most of the other highly traveled two-lane roads can be addressed for costs that range from $20 to $60 million.

However, we acknowledge that the number of accidents on the road should be reduced with the implementation of several additional safety measures. The highest percentage of accidents on the road are rear-end collisions that most often result from automobiles stopping for left turns. We will analyze strategic locations along the route to install turn lanes to reduce these points of conflict. Some of the most serious accidents result from head-on collisions that most often result when a vehicle crosses the centerline of the road. We plan to install pavement scoring along the centerline of the road to alert drivers when they are drifting across the centerline. Previously, we added scoring to the edges of the road and we believe that action has substantially reduced drive-off-the-road accidents. So while there are no current plans to widen US-45, ALDOT will continue to partner with local law enforcement and officials to increase the safety of the corridor.”

Katelyn Turner, ALDOT spokesperson

“If you have to travel Highway 45, for God’s sakes be careful. It is a very, very dangerous highway. It will take your life in a minute.”

Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer

Neither Outlaw nor Stringer say they’re giving up their fight, and urge others to be cautious when driving on Highway 45.

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