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Updated: Friday, 18 Nov 2011, 10:50 AM EST
Published : Thursday, 17 Nov 2011, 11:11 PM EST
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Nine roads and intersections in West Michigan rank among the state's 40 worst spots for crashes, according to a Michigan Department of Transportation report submitted this year to the Federal Highway Administration.
The required state report is called the "5%" or "transparency" report and while not well known, it is public. Target 8 obtained a copy of the 2011 report, which the FHWA has not yet posted online.
Four of the West Michigan spots on what it sometimes called the high-crash list are along freeways.
But first, a look at the other five locations:
That stretch of Fruit Ridge was on the state's list in 2009 and 2010. And it remains on the 2011 list because, like other road spans on it, Fruit Ridge near 7 Mile has a high rate of crashes per mile.
Two people died in crashes along the stretch between 2006 and 2010. Four people were seriously hurt in crashes there.
Harold Pimpleton lives in the crash zone. He said he's been hit twice while driving his car along the road. And Pimpleton has seen plenty of other crashes.
"A guy hit a lady from the back," he recalled. "He was going over 100 miles an hour -- split her SUV in half."
The 20-plus-year resident of Fruit Ridge Avenue wants to see more speed traps.
The Kent County Road Commission is planning other fixes. Leaders there say the road itself is not a major problem, but there is a crash history.
"We found a lot of the crashes were run off the road, hitting fixed objects -- trees mostly -- and a significant number of them occurred when it was wet or snowy," said Tim Haagsma, traffic and safety director for the commission.
The first fix? KCRC won federal money to take out trees.
And because of the wet crash pattern, "we're going to do a surface treatment where we would incrase the friction factor so the road is a little more aggressive -- less slippery when wet," Haagsma said.
The plan is to put the fix into place next summer. The report lists the estimated price tag at $95,000.
Other roads on the list were fixed this summer.
The Michigan Department of Transportation installed a so-called "Michigan left" at 72nd Avenue and Chicago Drive after five serious injuries and one death there over the last three years. Drivers were running red lights trying to get across the road, an MDOT spokesman said.
Now, drivers cannot travel straight across Chicago on 72nd. The state report estimated the fixes at $600,000.
"Just by doing that move alone reduces the severity and the frequency of crashes by about 60%," said John Richard, MDOT's Grand Region communications representative.
72nd and Chicago is the only West Michigan intersection on the list. The rest are stretches of road. Intersections are added to the list based on the number of serious crashes, serious injuries and deaths.
It is possible that more West Michigan intersections are not on the list because there are more cars on the road in southeast Michigan -- and there's not a simple way to factor that in.
Elsewhere in Ottawa County, the road commission spent an estimated $500 to install signs along 44th Street east of 8th Avenue warning drivers of a curve ahead. Six people were hurt in crashes there between 2006 and 2010.
To the south, the Kalmazoo County Road Commission is expected to consider grant funding to add rumble strips to prevent drivers from leaving the road or corssing the center line -- and perhaps even change the banking of the road. Six people have been seriously hurt in crashes there over the last five years.
But traffic engineers told Target 8 there is not a fix for every road on the list.
Take the stretch of Sheridan Drive in Muskegon County, between Vine and Evanston avenues. It's on the list for the second year in a row.
Asked if there's anything he believes could be done to significantly cut down on crashes, Muskegon County Road Commission highway engineer Paul Bouman said that given the type of crash seen along the road, the incidents are "more related to driver behavior."
Bouman said he believes the segment of Sheridan is on the list in part because there's a busy four-way-stop intersection in the middle of it.
Leon Terpenning can tell you about the crashes at his corner along Sheridan.
"One day, I had pulled up here to turn in my driveway," he recalled, and a large truck nearly struck him from the back end. "And he took my mailbox out."
Terpenning figures he has lost his mailbox roughly 10 times during the decades he has lived at his Muskegon Township home.
He sees plenty of "fender-benders," but the state's report lists eight serious injuries along the stretch between 2006 and 2010.
they would do something about it," Terpenning told Target 8. "I don't know what they could do."
If the intersection near Terpenning's home were busier, Bouman said a left-turn lane or making more room to pass on the right could make sense.
But what about the roads typically most traveled: freeways?
Two segments of U.S. 131 in Kent County landed on the list, including the southbound lanes from south of Cherry Street to south of Franklin Street.
It's where a driver struck another car around 3 a.m. on a July morning this year -- and then ran away, according to police. The driver who was hit was taken to the hospital.
Thirteen people were seriously hurt in crashes over the last five years along the stretch.
When transportation officials looked at those crashes closely, they found many of the crashes were alcohol-related, said MDOT's Richard.
He said there is something that can be done when alcohol is the issue.
"We remedy it with better pavement marking, better lighting and working with law enforcement," the MDOT spokesman said.
Pavement markings along the stretch were fixed last year, according to the state's report. But southbound U.S. 131 from Cherry to Franklin remains on the list because road segments are analyzed for crashes over a five-year period.
Two Muskegon County freeway segments made the list, both along U.S. 31.
One person died and five people were seriously hurt between 2006 and 2010 in crashes on southbound U.S. 131 near Laketon Avenue.
The issue, Richard said, was "traffic merging -- weaving in and out -- causing some side swipes."
Among other fixes, MDOT installed an extra lane this summer to give people more time to merge onto the freeway or to get over to an exist. The estimated total project cost: $2.5 million.
Workers have yet to fix the other stretch of southbound U.S. 31, from south of Holton Road to south of Cedar Creek.
The shoulder is not consistently wide enough, according to the report.
"That has not been completed yet," Richard said. The plan is to widen the shoulders, add cable guard rail and then add rumble strips, he said, and it could be done in 2012 with an estimated $2 million price tag.
But as with the non-freeway roads, the MDOT spokesman said there is not always a fix.
Eleven people were seriously hurt in crashes along southbound U.S. 131 near 10 Mile Road, the Rockford exit in Kent County, over the last five years.
But Richard said more than half of those injuries came from a single crash.
"For a tractor-trailer to blow a tire and cause six injuries, it's pretty difficult to find a remedy for that one," he said.
If one crash skewed the numbers along that stretch -- and if the other fixes work -- most of the roads should drop off of the state's list in the coming years. Target 8 will be watching.