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Officials act fast to address traffic issue at Tharptown

After a request from Franklin County Schools officials and law enforcement, Franklin County engineer David Palmer acted fast to help remedy a potential traffic issue at Tharptown High School.

Tharptown has seen unprecedented growth in enrollment the last two years, which has further contributed to traffic jams on Highway 48 during morning and afternoon drop-off and pick-up times.

On August 11, there was a two-vehicle accident during the morning hours when a vehicle traveling east on 48 collided with a vehicle attempting to turn onto County Road 80. The area has hilly terrain that creates a limited sight distance for vehicles, even if they are traveling at the posted speed limit of 45 miles per hour.

Within days of the request being made by law enforcement, the Franklin County Highway Department installed “Reduced Speed Ahead” signs on both directions on 48.

Additionally, the speed limit now drops from 45 mph to 35 mph for a brief period before vehicles enter the school zone with a 25-mph limit.

Although there is a turn lane for westbound traffic on 48 attempting to turn into the school, traffic in the afternoons is often backed up all the way onto 48.

“Vehicles get backed up trying to drop off and pick up kids. It's a tough situation there,” Palmer said. “There was an accident recently, and the state troopers spoke with me and asked if we could put up some signs to help with that area right through there with speed and warn folks that there's a school zone there.

“We wanted people to be more cognizant of what's going on, especially during those times of the day."

The need for a reduced speed limit comes in large part due to the limited sight distance for eastbound traffic on 48, but also from the increased number of vehicles entering the school.

“The school has exploded in growth," Palmer said. "We didn't really have this problem for a long time, but now with the number of students at Tharptown continuing to grow it's become more of an issue. It's sort of a tough place there, as far as the geometry of the road and having some limited sight distance there.

“Not that the [45 mph] speed limit was excessive for that type of road, but considering school issues during those two peak times of the day, after discussion with state troopers, we felt it was prudent to try and help them out and give the public more warning of what's going on there."

Jamie Kiel, who has three children that attend Tharptown, said the signs were a welcome addition to the community.

“We literally have people sitting on the road during school pick-up time because traffic is backed up,” Kiel said. “Imagine a big truck coming around the curve on 48 with limited sight distance and a limited distance to stop even if the driver is paying attention.

“I thought David was very proactive in getting that done once he and the Franklin County Commission were made aware of the problem."

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