I moved into my house at the intersection of Town Branch Road and U.S. 23 in 1993. Town Branch Road is a major connector road between the city of Prestonsburg and U.S. 23, traveled heavily.
One morning, in 1995, I drove out of my hours to a car wreck at the mouth of Town Branch Road. Four people died that morning at that intersection. With my neighbors and the families impacted, I went to the District 12 of the Highway Department at Pikeville and requested that they do something to fix this problem.
In our lack of engineering expertise, we thought a stoplight would work. I volunteered to donate to the stoplight, if District 12 would put it in. Eighteen eyars ago, they told us that wouldn’t work and did nothing.
How many must die? How many had to die at the old Abbott Mountain intersection before something was done?
Having watched the traffic patterns on this road for 20 years, I find unbelievable that the chief engineers over this project have never just sat there and watched the traffic on this intersection to see what the problem is. The problem isn’t the amount of traffic or the businesses that have grown and will continue to grow alongside the highway. The problem is the speed of the traffic.
Loaded and unloaded heavy trucks coming off of one hill, trying to get their speed up to make it up the next. It doesn’t matter which way they are going. There is no reason heavy equipment should be moving through this section of road at 65 miles per hour. If they are coming off of the hill at 65 miles per hours, of course they couldn’t stop at the bottom of the hill for a stoplight.
Ten years ago, we were told that the speed limit through this section of road couldn’t be changed, because it was U.S. 23. When you drive from Pikeville to Ashland and beyond, every town except ours has a reduced speed limit. Coal Run and Catlettsburg are 35 miles per hour. Louisa is 45 miles per hour. Stoplights are plenty.
The solution may or may not be a stoplight at Town Branch. That is up to the engineers. This problem is only going to get worse. As businesses continue to move out on the highway, whether it be car dealerships, hotels, trade centers or gas stations, this problem is not going to go away.
Why can’t we right now lower the speed limit on U.S. 23 through Prestonsburg? Starting at the top of Abbott Mountain and ending at the Allen interseciton, drop the speed limit to 45 miles per hour and enforce it. This will save lives now. Being able to get from one place to the next five minutes quicker is not worth another life.