JONESVILLE — Jonesville residents found out at a meeting held Tuesday evening that a plan of action regarding the intersection of U.S. 176 and New Hope Church Road should be in place within two weeks.
The meeting, which was organized by Jonesville resident Nancy Millwood, shed light on concerns many local residents have regarding the intersection. The general consensus among residents at the meeting seemed to be that a stop light is needed at the intersection due to the number of collisions that have occurred there since Jonesville Elementary/Middle School has been open.
Millwood said that in five years, the number of wrecks at that particular intersection tripled compared to the number that occurred in the previous four years. She also said her mother-in-law was involved in an accident at the intersection while going to pick up her nieces at school in November. She said her mother-in-law’s vehicle was hit on the passenger’s side.
“If she had been on the way back, she would have had four innocent lives in the car,” Millwood said.
S.C. House District 42 Rep. Mike Anthony also spoke, saying that he cringes every time he gets a call like the one he received last Thursday morning about a collision at the intersection.
“That road (U.S. 176) was built to expedite us to Spartanburg and the interstates,” Anthony said. “This is about the only intersection that doesn’t have a light. This is the most confusing intersection — especially if you are turning left and going back to Union.”
“And we have over 700 of our most precious commodities right there,” Anthony added, referring to the students of Jonesville EMS.
Jonesville resident Buddy Fleming said he had spoken with State Sen. Shane Martin, who was unable to attend the meeting, but plans to speak to the state highway commissioner today on behalf of Jonesville residents.
Millwood added that she is thankful for the officers who direct traffic at the intersection during school traffic hours, but she fears for their safety as well.
“If I was an officer, I would think twice before I risked my life directing traffic there,” she said.
Sheriff David Taylor also spoke regarding the danger of the intersection.
“I know this is a dangerous intersection,” Taylor said. “It’s not safe for one officer in that intersection. That’s why we have two officers there, and I’ve had officers nearly get hit there.”
Taylor said that four or five cars can get in the median at the intersection, preventing drivers from having a clear field of vision.
“I have a grandson who goes to school there,” Taylore said. “He doesn’t go to school that way, but his mama leaves that way, so I have a vested interest.”
Taylor did mention that since South Carolina DOT District Engineer John McCarter began investigating this situation in October, he believes more progress has been made than ever before.
McCarter then spoke to those in attendance, explaining possible solutions and answering questions from the public. He said that there is certainly a problem.
“I can tell you right now what we’ve got out there is not adequate,” McCarter said. “My objective is to make it as safe and efficient as I possibly can.”
McCarter explained that the DOT is looking at four possible alternatives, as a stop light is not always the answer. He presented data showing that in South Carolina, there are approximately 91,000 intersections. He said there were approximately 35,000 crashes at those intersections last year. Of those, 45 percent were at signalized intersections. There were also 151 fatalities, 35 of which were at signalized intersections.
“I’m not against doing a signal, but there are laws that could prevent it,” McCarter said. “I’m not convinced yet that a signal will solve the problem. I’ve seen some bad ones (intersections), and this one’s bad.”
McCarter said he has the support of the DOT commissioner, and he has every reason to believe a decision will be made regarding the intersection in the next two weeks.
JEMS bus driver Louvenia Gory also spoke at the meeting, saying that it is not uncommon for her to wait 10-15 minutes to cross the intersection. She said the rule on her bus is for the students to have “quiet time” while crossing the highway.
“I drive the bus, and I am very scared in the mornings and the afternoons,” Gory said.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Jake Black presented letters from JEMS students asking the DOT to install a traffic light at the intersection.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.