What eventually will be a major traffic improvement on U.S. 78 (Interstate 22) in New Albany is a dangerous problem today.
We, of course, are talking about the $19-million project to widen the Central/Carter avenues overpass and the bridge over the Tallahatchie River and the lengthening of the on and off ramps at the downtown New Albany exit. The project is designed to bring the stretch of U.S. 78 up to interstate standards.
Unfortunately, during the construction process a bad and dangerous stretch of U.S. 78 has been made far worse. Three accidents, including one that resulted in the death of a Missouri woman, already have occurred in the construction zone and another construction-related accident occurred last week a little further east on the highway.
“It’s been a mess from day one,” said New Albany Police Chief David Grisham.
We agree. It wasn’t until after the first major accident that the state Department of Transportation got around to lowering the speed limit to 50, from 60, in the construction zone.
We think a concrete barrier should be placed down the center median through the construction zone. The fatality could have been avoided if one had been in place.
Grisham recommended that the westbound ramp to U.S. 78 be closed because of poor sight lines made worse by the construction. That was done this week, but no detour has been marked.
We would urge New Albany residents to use city streets and not the highway between the U.S. 30 West and Highway 15 exits until the construction is completed.
It seems to us that the state has mishandled the safety aspect of this project so far. More needs to be done to lessen the chance of accidents and fatalities.