Volume 104, Number 46 - November 15, 2007
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Accidents on Highway 351 are targeted
Recent calls for lower speed limits on Highway 351 have highlighted concerns over increased traffic accidents along the 24-mile stretch.
The area near the Green River Bridge and mile markers 6-10 is a main concern of County Commissioner John Linn.
“The Green River Bridge is so narrow, it’s probably the most dangerous spot in Sublette County,” Linn said.
Highway 351 — as a whole — has seen traffic increases from about 50 heavy-load vehicles to 350 a day, between 2001-2005,and an increase of 250 to 700 for car and pickup traffic, according to figures by socioeconomic advisor of the county and town, Jeffrey Jacquet.
Accident figures mirror this increase of traffic. In 1997, the little used highway only produced 10 crashes — in 1998 and 1999 the figure was down to 5 and 4 before another increase — while 2006 saw 21 total crashes, with persons injured at 12, and two fatalities, according to figures released by WYDOT Highway Safety.
Various accident reports including the recent ERG draft pinpoint traffic trends on many of Sublette County’s roads and highways, but talk in the southern part of the county remains squarely on 351.
“If you see it every day and all year long, you have a different perspective,” Linn said. The highway has been an obstacle for Linn since he was young.
“This Green River Bridge has been bad since I was a kid,” Linn said. “It’s been the site of so many close calls. You can’t even imagine.”
During the last Sublette County Commissioners meeting, Linn and his fellow commissioners agreed to draft a request to WYDOT to slow traffic down on the stretch of highway near the Green River Bridge. Lt. Scot Montgomery of Wyoming Highway Patrol noted that many of the highways in Sublette County have seen the increased traffic.
“I know we’ve had a few crashes [on 351], but I don’t know if it’s any more dangerous than other highways,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery emphasized human error when considering accidents. “I think the biggest help would be improved defensive driving by folks who are driving the highway,” he added. Lt. Hayes Randol of the Sublette County Sheriff’s Department pointed to increased traffic all through the county, as well as the hazards of 351.
“Transient population has made things like wrecks and speeding violations pick up,” Randol said. “I’d say volume of traffic for that road seems like too much. It seems like that road keeps an awful heavy load as far as traffic.”
John Eddins, district 3 engineer, said that he is working on decreasing the speed limit on that very stretch of highway. “Over the last four years, everyone is exactly right — there’s been an increase from 280 to 1,500 vehicles a day,” Eddins said. “We’re already strongly considering, and are probably already going to reduce speed from 65 mph to 55 mph.”
Eddins said that Highway 351 was ultimately not made for 1,500-vehicle traffic. He said that the curves and design don’t meet a 65-mph design grade. “Nobody had a crystal ball to see that 351 was going to service 1,500 vehicles a day,” he added.
As far as rebuilding the highway or reconstructing parts, 351 is a priority, but work is quite a ways off, Eddins said. “We’re trying to look day in and day out to be proactive,” Eddins said. “We don’t have enough money to rebuild every road that needs it in Western Wyoming. Realistically, any work on 351 is six or seven years off.”
Eddins own WYDOT bridge inspector was hit on the highway, so he hopes that reduced speeds, enforcement and acceptance will lower accidents until proper funding for construction can be attained. “My goal is to have signs up by the end of the month,” Eddins said.
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