Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials and engineers walked through a plan Tuesday evening to address safety issues at two intersections along U.S. 45, while also listening to local residents and business owners about their concerns.
The meeting at Community Fellowship Baptist Church addressed constructing “R-Cut” connectors near U.S. 45 intersections at Ky. 408 in West Viola and Ky. 1288 in southern McCracken County. The existing traffic lights at 45/408 will also be removed under this plan.
An R-Cut, similar to a “J-Turn,” requires through traffic on side roads to make a right turn, then use a median turn lane to essentially make a U-turn before turning left to maneuver through the intersection and back into traffic.
“The goal is to improve safety and minimize accidents,” Mike Sewell, engineer with Gresham Smith from Louisville, told the audience.
According to KYTC, five years of crash data revealed the 45/408 intersection had 36 police-reported crashes. That number included seven angle crashes, 16 rear-end crashes, two opposing left-turn crashes, two sideswipe collisions, and three runoffs with 10 total injuries.
The 45/1288 intersection had 19 reported crashes that included two fatalities.
Those in attendance asked about increased traffic enforcement presence from KSP or Graves County Sheriff’s Office. While funding additional police presence would be outside the transportation cabinet, the 408 intersection is yards from the Kentucky State Police Post 1.
Another question was about using another alert system, such as rumble strips on U.S. 45 before the intersection. Officials noted that drivers are presently alerted by flashing lights when the signal at Ky. 408 will change, but there still will be distracted drivers who may not notice or get used to the advanced alert and may not pay adequate attention.
Sewell and KYTC District 1 Chief Engineer Kyle Poat both said similar R-Cut connectors were examined in other states and have a record of helping reduce collisions.
A major contributor, they said, is that motorists can focus on only two lanes of oncoming traffic instead of four lanes of opposing traffic at the current intersection.
For example, westbound traffic on Ky. 408 East wishing to travel south on U.S. 45 to Mayfield would turn right to merge northbound at an appropriate break in traffic. That vehicle would then negotiate into a left lane to enter the R-Cut, cross the median and wait for a traffic gap to then advance southbound on U.S. 45.
The reverse would be executed from Ky. 408 West heading east to travel north. A vehicle would turn south and make the R-Cut turn across the median to then merge into northbound traffic.
According to designs presented at the meeting, the roadway configuration would also have dedicated left turn lanes for north and southbound traffic wanting to cross onto Ky. 408, as well.
Approximately 14,200 vehicles pass through both intersections on an average day, according to KYTC information, but the R-Cut intersections have almost no impact on intersection traffic volumes.
Engineers calculated 45% fewer crashes resulted at R-Cut intersections and also reduced delays at such intersections.
Bidding is anticipated to be completed by the end of this year or early 2020. The project is expected to run between $500,000 and $1 million.
Additional information and a video explaining the R-Cut turn are available online at us45safety.org.