Four Madison High School Seniors attended the commissioners’ meeting Jan. 11 to present their senior project on improving safety on Heise Rd.
“The EMTs treating me said I should’ve died,” said Sidney Parker.
Parker was driving home from work at Heise Pizza Parlor when her car slid at the corner just before the Heise Hot Springs. Parker told commissioners her car went over the side of the road, rolling and ejecting her from the vehicle.
“I was able to pull myself back to my car to call for help,” she said. “My phone was the only thing left in the car.”
She says it still scares her to drive around that corner.
Parker and fellow seniors Jantzen Marcum, Max Ward and Emma Hurst created a presentation with a history of accidents on the road and possible solutions, saying that the number of accidents has been on an incline over the last ten years.
According to data from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office obtained by the students, there have been 120 accidents in the last ten years on Heise Rd.
Due to Parker’s accident, the students presented adding standard guardrails to unprotected corners, as the area lacks natural barriers and has steep terrain.
Ward informed commissioners that guardrails are effective on vehicles traveling up to 50 mph, which would work on the area as the speed limit around the curve is 20 mph.
The cost for a steel guardrail is $43 per linear foot according to their presentation, which would cost between $3,250 and $4,250 for a single lane guardrail at the curve.
Guardrail will also protect from rollover accidents, Ward said, which accounts for 40% of spinal cord accidents.
The students also suggested putting in LED signage in the area, with Marcum stating that they would be more visible in both day and nighttime conditions along with being more visible in snowy weather.
Public Works Director Dave Walrath stated that they know Heise is a problem road and that their employees have had incidents themselves in the area.
“It’s a treacherous mountain road,” Walrath said.
The commissioners thanked the students for attending the meeting to bring them a greater understanding of the concerns and needs surrounding Heise Rd.
Walrath said there may be grants he can look into for improvements and Commissioner Shayne Young said that it’s the scariest corner in the county. Young said they gave good suggestions and that he would be willing to look into funding.
“We definitely have to investigate and see if there’s something we can do,” Hancock said. “We take these concerns seriously and we don’t like to see people get hurt. They did a great job and wherever we can, we’ll improve safety with the budget we have.”