West Blount residents travelling Ala 160 last week noticed an unusual number of state troopers ticketing drivers on the accident-wracked roadway. It wasn’t their imaginations, as trooper Charles Dysart of the Birmingham post of the Alabama Department of Public Safety confirmed. Extra troopers have been assigned to the area from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, he said.
Currently two troopers are assigned for their full shift tours, and two more are assigned on a half-shift basis, he said. Dysart said the heavy enforcement emphasis began Friday, Oct. 16 and will continue indefinitely until certain improvements to the road, including additional guard rails and mobile speed radar signs, are in place.
“The troopers are there to slow traffic down until those changes are made,” Dysart said. “They’re not there for show. They’re there to write tickets.” Troopers are expected to hand out 40 to 50 tickets a day for as long as they are assigned to the area, according to ticket-writing frequency averages Dysart provided.
The enforcement emphasis has been said to be a result of public outcry following a number of recent accidents and fatalities on the roadway. Dysart said he could not confirm that directly, but that the decision to increase enforcement activity had come from “up the line.” Asked if the governor’s office had been involved, he said “you’d have to check with the governor’s office on that.”
The 16-mile stretch of Ala 160 extending from I-65 in the western part of the county to its termination at U.S. 231 in Cleveland has been the subject of controversy for several years as local officials have struggled to hold the DOT to its initial projections for widening the stretch from I-65 to Hayden and widening shoulders, adding guard rails, and improving visibility along the remainder of the route. The road has been the scene of tragic accidents during that time and before.
Amy Camp, a local resident and founder of the interest group Highway 160 Promise, cites the statistic of 15 fatalities occurring in accidents along the route since the year 2000. Martha Earnhardt, public information manager of the state Department of Public Safety in Montgomery, said the office could not confirm or dispute that statistic. Camp said the information is available on-line at a website provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The site provides fatality information by county and by year nationwide.
Camp said the new group will hold an organizational meeting on Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at Cross Roads Baptist Church, located on Ala 160 near the I-65 interchange. The group’s purpose is to focus attention on commitments made by the state Department of Transportation regarding the highway. Contact e-mail is email@example.com.