Lincoln Parish’s Killer Highway Intersection

Farmerville Hwy/Douglas Rd Intersection

Farmerville Hwy/Douglas Rd Intersection
(click to enlarge)

“I just didn’t see the truck coming.”

So said Lincoln Parish Police Juror Skip Russell after his narrow escape last week from serious injury or death. Russell was involved in a collision with a fully loaded dump truck at one of the more notorious intersections in North Louisiana, LA Highway 33 (Farmerville Highway) and LA Highway 821 (Douglas Rd), located a little over a mile from the Ruston corporate limits.

And it isn’t as if Russell isn’t familiar with the site, as he lives but 1/2 mile down Douglas Road. When his kids were growing up and learning to drive, he always told them to take another route because of the danger, he said.

Russell’s accident is but the latest wreck at the busy intersection.

In June, there was a fatality, and in February, 2013, long-time Ruston CPA Melba Jones lost her life there.

According to figures provided by the Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development (LaDOTD), during the ten years of 2004-2013, there were a total of 32 accidents at the location. There were a total of 20 injuries and two fatalities.

These totals do not include the 2014 fatality, Russell’s accident, nor any other from this year.

In 2010, major work was completed on Farmerville Highway, making it a four-lane with a center turning lane all the way out to the Douglas Road intersection.

Many people have opined that the 55 MPH speed limit on Farmerville Highway is too fast, considering all the businesses located in the area.

Limited visibility, especially for traffic entering the intersection from the west (Frazier Road), also is an issue.

Note from the aerial photograph that vehicles approaching the intersection have to look to the right (south) over their shoulder, as the intersection is not perpendicular. Also, traffic into and out of the convenience store on the corner can confuse, as it adds another element that must be factored into a driver’s decision before crossing Farmerville Hwy.

Once that driver commits to crossing the five lanes, there is little time to spare if northbound traffic tops the hill driving at the speed limit.

DOTD’s Susan Stafford said that a study had been done in 2013 to evaluate the feasibility of installing a traffic signal at the intersection, but that traffic and roadway conditions did not meet the minimum requirements for a traffic signal, or the use of any other traffic control measures.

She added, “However, in light of recent incidents at the intersection and public inquiries, another study of the intersection is being conducted and is estimated to complete this fall. In the meantime, DOTD is also working with local law enforcement to help monitor the intersection.”

The matter is reportedly on the agenda for next Tuesday’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting.

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13 Responses to “Lincoln Parish’s Killer Highway Intersection”

  1. Mr. E Says:

    If any intersection in Lincoln Parish could benefit from an overpass, it is certainly this intersection! There are enough residents coming from both the Douglas Road directions to warrant one. I don’t think a traffic light is the answer for this intersection as it would serve to back traffic up in every direction. One of the worst things about city traffic light systems is that they are not properly timed to maximize traffic flow. Coordinating the timing system of city traffic lights is a relatively inexpensive way to increase traffic flow without building new infrastructure, but politicians prefer to build so they can show voters what they are doing. Building an overpass on 33 would be one of the few times that new construction would be warranted.

    An overpass on Hwy 33 would allow traffic on Douglas Road to cross under traffic on 33 making the entire intersection much safer for everyone. A traffic signal might actually increase fatalities as drivers already at speed would be tempted to speed up to beat the light, thus causing an even more horrific crash. I also don’t think slower speed limits on 33 are the answer since the highway was four-laned to increase traffic flow. It’s a lot like putting a governor on a Ferrari – why buy a Ferrari if you can only drive it at 45 MPH? Highway 33 was expanded to handle increased traffic flow, and that traffic flow shouldn’t be interrupted by a traffic signal so far out of town. Drivers coming up to speed after leaving Ruston suddenly forced to stop for a traffic light so far out of town are more likely to speed up so as not to interrupt their momentum. And, once a traffic signal is installed, there will never be any reason for anyone to revisit the problem to see if it actually worked or if an overpass is still necessary. Everyone will assume the problem is handled and move on to the detriment of area residents.

    • Anonymous Says:

      Do you have any idea how much an overpass costs? Multimillions and years in the making from the first surveying, engineering studies, and land acquisition to completion.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Just because it cost millions doesn’t mean it’s not the best solution. He said it was the best solution although it may not be the most economical solution. And I have to say that I agree with him. A traffic light may decrease the current accidents caused by vehicles crossing 33 but a traffic light will greatly increase rear-end danger from both the north bound & south bound lanes. It will not fix the problem but only reconfigure it.

        • Anonymous Says:

          Hard to believe a multi-million dollar project that would take at least five years start to finish is the “best solution.”

      • Mr. E Says:

        Actually, I do. Having lived in a number of places, I’m aware that there are many ways to solve a problem. I’ve seen overpasses constructed that basically consisted of a huge pipe covered with soil for the access ramps and paved over. They were functional and cost-effective solutions to the traffic management problem of the area. This approach was utilized for a series of overpasses in a major city in which I lived, and they vastly improved the driving experience on the major artery on which they were installed. I was surprised at the speed with which they were installed, and the minimal traffic disruption. Too often, we get locked into believing there is only one way to approach solving a problem because that is the only way we have ever seen. Just because we are used to seeing huge overpasses constructed in this area doesn’t mean that approach is the best in every situation. The railroad overpass constructed some years ago on Bonner Street employed a similar method, and it has worked extremely well. We hear a lot of empty talk about diversity improving our educational system, and most of it is driven by those advancing their own agendas, but diversity also includes seeing how others solve problems and applying their ideas to arrive at the best solution.

  2. MaybeNextTimeTheyWillListen Says:

    After all, it’s someone else’s money…

  3. Anonymous Too Says:

    I’m a long-time Ruston native and fairly recent retiree who lives near but dreads traversing this intersection from any direction.
    Certainly the several entrances & exits of the popular store on that corner are at issue. But I think that the danger is mostly due to the speed limit allowed on Hwy 167 through the intersection.
    I’m convinced that this problem would be essentially the same without the store as a factor in attempting to cross either way using Frazier or Douglas Roads.
    I would note that the large building nearing completion & “opening soon” at that same intersection is to be for public use; very likely complicating the issue further.
    It appears to me that the easiest resolution would be to regulate the north/south speed limit for that particular intersection due to the population & business growth in that area of Ruston.
    I’m hoping that any feasibility session would seriously consider this option; including the proper placement of “Speed Reduced Ahead” signs due to the topography approaching the intersection either way on Hwy 167 alone.
    These observations come from my having several times barely missed being ran over myself in crossing Hwy 167 there; even after exercising the highest level of driver caution.
    I would also add that the field in which I trained, worked, & retired from just happens to be law enforcement; including traffic regulation & investigation.
    Surely, if this problem isn’t resolved; someone else will soon be injured or killed there.

    • Mr. E Says:

      Lowering, or “regulating,” the speed limit may be the easiest solution, but as I pointed out above, it is not necessarily the best solution. As a former law enforcement officer, you are surely aware that drivers routinely ignore speed limits on stretches of open road. If local drivers, who are certainly aware of this intersection, are not already disposed to slowing upon approach to exercise caution, they certainly aren’t going to do so because we erect yet another sign for them to ignore.

      This intersection is located far enough outside town in an area with fewer buildings, giving drivers the feeling that they are leaving town and can increase their speed, which they do after having endured the lower speeds of city traffic. They are at a point where they feel it is time to open it up and get down the road. No speed limit sign alone is going to be effective, and either you station police near the intersection continuously to enforce the speed limit, or you introduce the malfeasance-riddled traffic cameras with their emphasis on revenue rather than safety.

      If you are only interested in expediency at the cost of efficiency, then by all means, go with the short term solution of posting a speed limit which will be ignored due to human nature and the traffic deaths will continue. If, however, you are truly interested in an expedient solution that saves lives, then carefully consider the overpass idea.

  4. Anonymous Too Says:

    I certainly hope that more level-headed and down-to-earth thinking will be exercised by the committee(s) actually responsible for resolving this issue.

    • Diogenes Says:

      In other words, as a former law enforcement officer, you favor the establishment of another speed trap.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    This is in reference to Anonymous Too’s comment on 8/8 at 9:57. If you are a longtime resident of Ruston you should know the difference between HWY 33 and HWY 167. You keep referring to HWY 167. Apparently you were lost when you come to this intersection if you thought you were on 167 instead of 33. Hope you found your way home though.

  6. Anonymous Too Says:

    Very well… Error noted. …and, thanks for the help.
    Hopefully that didn’t throw anyone off. But there seems to be very little of a constructive nature going on in this series of commentary anyway.
    It’s beginning to sound like a choir full of would-be preachers prompted to “amen” out loud anything they hear while their insides are damning everything to hell (all the while)!
    There’s a good chance that we all could use a little help finding the way home.
    But, have at it if you like. I’m getting off here as a former leaver of comment.
    This whole thing has apparently gone way, way over my head. …bye.

  7. nolanh57 Says:

    Yes there is a danger there. I travel this road twice per day, and I too was once T-boned. The problem usually is that drivers stopped on the East – West LA 821 get impatient waiting for traffic to clear. They see 3 lanes going South and they think they can quickly squeeze into a Lane then go with the flow. A traffic signal will eliminate this problem. The other problem of people being distracted or affected by alcohol consumption would be eliminated if the LADOTD or the DOTD would lay down surface patches of raissd rough material, yards before the approaching stop sign, causing the East West drivers to slow down and stop or at least reduce the amount of impact. All the highway department did after the death of my coworker was put four Stop Signs up on LA 821, reduce the LA 33 speed to 45, and put a warning flasher. Years ago the department experienced with different surfaces to alert drivers to an upcoming intersection. This is what’s need today.

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