Narrow stretch of I-65 where 11 were killed in crash has been especially deadly

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A narrower section of Interstate 65 in
rural Kentucky where 11 people were killed in a horrific crash last
month has been the scene of other deadly wrecks, according to state
accident data.
Last month's wreck involving a tractor-trailer truck that
slammed into a van carrying a Mennonite family occurred along a
47-mile stretch between Elizabethtown and the Cumberland Parkway
where the normally three-lane highway narrows to two lanes each
From 2003 to 2009, 72 of 174 fatalities on I-65 in Kentucky - 41
percent - occurred on the Elizabethtown-Cumberland Parkway stretch,
The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported, citing state accident
data. The two-lane portion represents about 34 percent of the
interstate's path through the state.
In Hart County, where last month's wreck occurred, 14 people
died in crashes on I-65 in 2008-09, and the total number of
collisions rose for the fourth straight year in 2009, to 196.
"It doesn't seem like there's as much room there to maneuver,
and we've been concerned about it," Hart County Judge-Executive
Terry Martin told the Louisville newspaper. "We've had some
terrible accidents, but nothing as bad as this last one."
In 2009, 19 fewer people were injured on I-65 in Hart County,
and six fewer killed than the year before even as the 196
collisions were the highest in six years.
The interstate's two-lane portion - the last section of I-65 in
Kentucky that has yet to be widened - is "a recipe for disaster,"
said Len Dunman, safety director for Mercer Transportation Co., a
Louisville trucking firm that employs 1,800 drivers and ships goods
to 49 states.
"The two-lane stretch of I-65 is obsolete. It's been an
obsolete roadway for 15 years," Dunman said.
I-65 snakes through nine Kentucky counties. Along the
five-county, two-lane portion, it carries 32,500 to 42,600 vehicles
a day, according to Transportation Cabinet data.
Efforts to widen the highway to at least three lanes each way
have trudged through the General Assembly. For the third time since
2006, the state's proposed highway plan has included money to buy
land and move utilities for a wider section of I-65 in Hart County
- but the work hasn't been funded.
Transportation officials began widening I-65 in 2002, choosing
to start with the southernmost section because its pavement was in
the worst condition, said Chuck Wolfe, a spokesman for the state
Transportation Cabinet.
Kentucky's proposed highway plan for the next two years includes
$2.2 million to purchase land and relocate utilities to widen 10
miles of the interstate in Hart County.
The plan also assumes that $60.8 million from a possible second
federal stimulus act would be spent on the next widening phase, in
Barren and Edmonson counties, north of the Cumberland Parkway.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Charles Swiney, who was at the
scene of the March 26 crash near Munfordville that killed 11
people, said he believes exhaustion might be a factor in some
He noted that the southern Kentucky section of I-65 is largely
rural and the middle leg for many drivers headed between upper
Midwestern and Southeastern states.
"It's almost like a Bermuda Triangle. Bad things are drawn to
that ... 20-, 30-mile stretch of road," Swiney said.
In Simpson County, where I-65 enters Kentucky from Tennessee,
the number of interstate crashes fell 17 percent in 2009, the first
full year in which I-65 was a three-lane road, according to state
police data. Nineteen people were injured and one person was
"I do think it's improved," said Jim Henderson, Simpson
County's judge-executive. "I do think we've had less serious
accidents since then."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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