Our Opinion: Improvements, attention focus on dangerous highway

U.S. 54 from south of Jefferson City to the Cole County line continues to defy safety efforts.

The primary culprits are grade-level crossings intersecting the dual-lane highway. Jeopardy results when vehicles starting from zero attempt to cross or merge as oncoming vehicles approach at high speeds.

Fatalities, sadly, are not infrequent. Recently, a 16-year-old teen died in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of U.S. 54 and Heritage Highway.

In an effort to decrease danger, the speed limit has been reduced, from 70 to 65 mph, and state and county law enforcement have increased their presence and enforcement.

The results of those efforts are impossible to quantify; we cannot calculate what accidents were prevented.

What remains apparent is peril persists. The Cole County Sheriff’s Department characterizes the stretch of U.S. 54 as the most dangerous road in Cole County.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is acutely aware of these dangers.

The agency proposes improvements to 11 of the crossovers, with construction scheduled to begin in mid-summer.

The project will be financed with $5 million in federal highway safety funds and the improvements are estimated to take about a year.

To familiarize area residents with the proposed construction, MoDOT officials will host a public meeting from 3:30-6 p.m. Jan. 6 in the Eugene Elementary School Cafeteria.

District Engineer Roger Schwartze said the plan is designed “to improve the accident history at these locations.”

Improvements certainly are needed along this stretch of highway tarnished by tragedy.

Today and in the future, however, motorists need to do their part by observing speed limits and exercising caution.

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