Tuesday, January 03, 2017 - Updated: 1:13 PM
By Rachel Keller
While not all of the construction anticipated last year is taking place on 5th Street and Main Street in Benton, there’s still quite a bit of action. With new lanes directing traffic on and off of 5th Street onto the Purchase Parkway and new cone barriers, the landscape continues to change but Mayor Rita Dotson said there’s more in action than what meets the eye.
Dotson said when she recently spoke with Michael Oliver with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, who said the barrier wall currently consisting of large, orange barrels will later become a permanent fixture. The barrels currently prevent drivers from turning left out of Richard Lewis Way, which crosses 5th Street, onto 5th Street, whether coming from the armory or from the area near Subway, and prevents drivers from turning left onto Richard Lewis Way, whether coming from the hospital and parkway ramps or the sheriff’s office. Those barrels will eventually be replaced with a 5-ft. concrete barrier wall.
“Michael said the barrels that block drivers from making left turns there were intended to be temporary but when the federal highway engineers came in, they said it has to be permanent and their reasoning for that is they’re afraid it’ll block traffic coming off the ramp if people are stopped to turn,” she explained.
Regarding the new traffic flow with the recently opened ramps, Dotson said other than a few drivers reportedly going the wrong way in the first couple of days, drivers seem to be adjusting well and the transition is still running smoothly.
During a recent meeting, Rita Murray, Benton council woman, reported receiving complaints from residents that drivers were disobeying the 45 mph speed limit on Main Street between CVS Pharmacy and the city limits toward the Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge. She told the council people reported drivers were driving as fast as 55 mph through a busy section of town where people are frequently pulling into and out of businesses and obviously creating a hazard.
Also during the most recent council meeting, Jim Dema, who owns West Kentucky Xerographics in the court square, reported the crosswalk signals at 12th Street and Main Street weren’t properly functioning.
Dotson said when she spoke with Oliver about the 5th and Main project, she inquired as to what could be done regarding the speed limit because it’s a state road, which makes any decisions beyond the jurisdiction of the city. She reported Oliver said before anything else is done, a traffic study will be conducted to determine the proper speed limit for that road, which he said may conclude the current 45 mph speed limit is appropriate. Oliver also will schedule a crew to look into the crosswalk signals on the court square, she said, which are also state-owned. Both the speed limit study and the maintenance checkup on the crosswalk signals are scheduled to begin after the first of the year.