State to try to reroute traffic at busy Culkin-61 intersection

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 26, 2003

6/26/03]Signs will be in place soon to direct Culkin Road drivers to enter the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 61 North through Sherman Avenue.

Walter Lyons, district three engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation, said he hopes people will change their driving habits from accessing 61 North from Culkin Road by driving about 1/8 of a mile farther to Sherman Avenue and making a right turn onto the highway. Those now entering from a connector strip known as Culkin Hill must cross two lanes of northbound traffic.

Lyons said the signs will be installed as soon as printing, which is under way, is completed.

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Culkin-area residents have complained for years that a traffic signal should be put at the intersection, but Lyons said budgeting such a change would take years. He also said data would have to justify a need for a signal.

“The perception is we’re having multiple deaths out there, and that’s not true.

One person has died in a wreck at the intersection since 1998, but Allen Maxwell, director of Vicksburg-Warren E911 operations, said no numbers were immediately available on non-fatal accidents there.

Lyons said if drivers ignore the signs that will indicate a suggested route for entering 61 from Culkin, Culkin Hill could be made one-way, and that would make the current pattern illegal.

“I think people are taking some chances they don’t have to take,” by crossing the highway, Lyons said. “Any time you try to cross a four-lane facility there’s danger involved.”

Warren County Coroner John Thompson sent a letter to Lyons in January requesting a study for a traffic signal. Traffic Engineer Mike Sullivan said in a letter to Lyons that after a study of the area, not enough traffic passed through the area. He also said the number of accidents at the intersection didn’t warrant a signal. His figures indicated 10 wrecks there in three years from 1998 to 2001, the last year for which state statistics were available.

“Any accident is undesirable,” Sullivan wrote. “However, the amount of accidents here, given the volume of traffic that travels through the intersection, is not abnormally high.”

Traffic along the stretch of U.S. 61 North has increased in recent years with the opening of River Region Medical Center, Sherman Avenue Elementary and Warren Intermediate school, and the construction of more homes in residential subdivisions in northeast Warren County.

Courtney Pickering and her family lived off Culkin Road within earshot of the intersection until December.

She said she heard a car wreck there just about every day for six years.

Pickering said the road off of Culkin Road used to enter U.S. 61 has caused so many wrecks something has to be done.

Louis Renaud, 1845 Culkin Road, said he and his wife battle cars flying along (U.S. Highway) 61 daily. He said they use Sherman Avenue to enter the highway during high-traffic times and otherwise use the strip known as Culkin Hill. He said most people living on Culkin Road know not to cross the highway when traffic is too heavy.

“If you’ve got somebody who is a little bit hesitant to even go into the median, you’ll be there all day,” Renaud said.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said the Sheriff’s Department has assisted the Mississippi Highway Patrol at many wrecks at the intersection. He said there has to be some reconsideration done to reconfigure the entire interchange.

“Anything they could do to protect lives would be beneficial,” Pace said.