Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 27, 2013

All are not happy about Wurtland traffic change

Officials say safety behind school-time Adena closure

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

WURTLAND — Officials say public safety is behind a traffic change near Wurtland middle and elementary schools, but some motorists don’t think it’s the right move.

At the request of police Chief Phillip Piercy, city commission members last summer voted to close Adena Street to through traffic from 7:30 to 8:10 a.m. and 2:30 to 3:10 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year. The move was meant to alleviate congestion at the intersection of Adena and East streets and to better facilitate the flow of traffic during peak school rush hours.

Piercy said congestion has been a problem at the intersection for more than 30 years and a change was long overdue. He said the new traffic pattern showed instant results when implemented in the fall and last week when he began stepping up enforcement of the new rule.

“Adena is very narrow with ditches on both sides of the road,” he said. “In the past there have been vehicles in the ditch; it is just very hazardous. I have done a traffic study and I have determined that this is the best route for dropping off and picking up children from the school.

“With one way in and one way out, it is just amazingly smooth. I feel it is a good thing. I’m proud of the way this is working.”

Piercy stressed the idea and push for the temporary weekday road closure were his and motivated by public safety. He said no residents or public officials sought closure of the road.

 “I take full responsibility for the idea, for what I feel is the solution,” he said. “I just submitted it to the council and they approved it.”

Piercy said the change went into effect last fall; he approached school officials to help them get the word out. Parents, he said, were informed at the beginning of the school year.

On the first day of school, Piercy blocked the road and tried to educate motorists. Then last week he did it again and personally spoke to every motorist coming and going along the roadway to explain the reroute.

He said parents coming from U.S. 23 can access East Street via several routes, including Chinns Branch to old U.S. 23, Virginia Street, Heaberlin Road, Uhlen Branch or U.S. 23 to old U.S. 23.

The traffic change isn’t sitting well with Stephanie Ferguson Kersey, whose children attend Wurtland schools. Kersey took to Facebook to criticize the decision, alleging city officials made the move for their own personal benefit. Several city commission members live on the road or have family members who live nearby.

“I feel like it is political; I’m absolutely convinced,” Kersey said.

“Adena is the safest way for me to take my kids to school,” said Kersey, who lives on Uhlen Branch. She believes the alternatives — crossing U.S. 23 to take Wurtland Avenue to East Street as opposed to turning right then making a left turn and crossing U.S. 23 to turn on Adena — are too dangerous.

“I’m putting my kids’ lives at risk and I’m passing more residential houses and making more turns,” she said.

Kersey has started a petition on Facebook aimed at reopening the road to school traffic, and has been encouraging unhappy motorists to call everyone from their state representative to high-ranking state officials to complain about the move and pressure the commission to revisit its decision.

Piercey said he hopes the closure sticks.

“I think it is working great. It is a public safety issue,” he said.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.