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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Staff Writer
If the Washington County Fiscal Court had to “grade on a curve”, then most likely they would give an “F” to a sharp curve on Route 429 known as “cowhole curve.” A Christmas Day accident involving several Washington County High School students is just the latest accident to occur in the curve. The road is maintained by the state, but the county is hoping that something can be done soon before more accidents take place. The fiscal court discussed possible solutions at the meeting this past Friday.
“There's just so many people who have wrecks there,” said magistrate Billy Riney, whose county district is home to the curve. “A lot of them haven't been major, maybe a fender bender or two, and some don't even bother to call the police or sheriff. They may hit a tree or something and just go home. I think a guard rail on the side of the road where the creek is would help a lot, but I think what the state needs to do is take a track loader to take the bank off on the other side to provide some sight clearance.”
Compounding the problem is the fact that the road has no speed limit signs posted, so drivers have no idea how fast they should be traveling. As they approach the curve going southbound, they have little or no warning that the curve is as sharp as it is, leaving some drivers cutting the turn too sharply and ending up in the ditch. Some drivers have no time to react, and they end up driving off the left side into a creek. There are also no signs for reduced speeds going into the curve, only lone curve signs with no indication of speed.
Patty Dunaway, chief engineer for District 4 of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, said things have been done in the past to prevent accidents on the curve such as building up the shoulder in case a tire went off the edge and so forth.
“Route 429 is a low-volume road, but it's definitely one that we have identified as needing attention, but it can't be done with current funding,” said Dunaway. “We went back over the last five years and there were three other accidents in the curve, and two of those admitted to speeding. Honestly, I'm not sure of what the speed limit is there, so I can't be positive. We have some federal funds for safety improvements, and the number of accidents that are in that curve is not something that would qualify. There has to be a high concentration of accidents, and this location is not one that has ever qualified.”
“I don't think anybody can go around that curve more than 25 miles an hour. If you do, you're liable to lose it,” Riney added. “Patty Dunaway is not the first person I've talked to about this. I've probably talked to six different people in Elizabethtown since I took office in 1985. Some have promised to do something, but nothing ever gets done.”
Dunaway said that the curve is one that the state has been looking at for a while, and she estimated that the project would cost about $2.4 million.
“The county ranks this curve high on their priorities, and we have worked with them in the past, but like I said, the funding has not been available in order to do that,” Dunaway added. “We'll have our maintenance crew come out to take a look at the situation. We'll also check on the speed limit and make sure all of the signage is up.”