Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who's fighting to keep Hwy. 109 safe?

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Another day, another report of a fatal accident on Highway 109.

This one comes with news that two Portland High School students were killed Monday night on their way home from a high school bowling match in Gallatin, while two more were injured.

Kayla M. Perdue and Austin C. Osborne, both 16 and from Portland, were killed. Justin L. Lemmonds Jr., 16, and Caitlyn R. Taylor, 17, were also injured.

Two short lives, two beating hearts, two lives of promise and dreams stopped way, way too soon.

During my short tenure as managing editor at The Wilson Post, I have made contact with Tennessee Highway Patrol three times in the past 30 days related to fatal automobile accidents on or near Hwy. 109.

It could be a heartbreaking coincidence. Or it could be something more.

But the harsh fact is that families have been ripped apart by the recent accidents.

Just last week, Deborah Miller, 46, of Murfreesboro, was killed near the intersection of Hwy. 109 and Academy Lane in Lebanon when her motorcycle collided with a pickup truck entering the roadway, launching her off her bike and into the roadway.

The intersection is one of the busiest in the county without a stoplight by many locals' accounts. And we agree with them.

And on Oct. 3, exactly one month prior to Monday's accident, a family of four was killed in a six-car accident on I-40 near the Hwy. 109 exit.

Monica, Mike, Stephen and Joshua Cruce of Kentucky all lost their lives when their Honda Civic collided with several other cars, two of which were stopped in the interstate.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has held recent meetings with locals about their plans for the Hwy. 109 corridor only to say that phases of improvements to the highway that connects Wilson and Sumner Counties may have to be postponed at any moment due to funding complications at the national level and the failure of congress to pass the Highway Trust Fund. The national fund makes up about half of TDOT's operating budget and 90% of the funding for road expansions.

The combined delays equal about $400 million in road projects.

Five segments of construction/imporovements have been approved for funding -- two in Wilson that connect Hwy. 70 to the Cumberland River -- but it's only a few of more than a dozen proposed projects that stretch along the entire length of the highway. And officials said there is no real timetable for the other projects to begin planning.

The trickle-down postponement of other state roadway projects will only further delay Hwy. 109 improvements.

But the truth of the matter is we can't afford to postpone the safety improvements that need to be made to one of the most dangerous stretches of roadway in the state. This portion of Hwy. 109 has been the scene of more than 400 accidents over a calendar year, which averages out to more than one a day.

We can't afford to wait any longer on making the changes that should have been made years ago.

The Miller family of Murfreesboro can't afford to wait any longer.

The Cruce family of Kentucky can't afford to wait any longer.

The Perdue and Osborne families of Portland can't wait any longer.

And the Portland High community can't afford to wait any longer.

We, as Wilson County residents, many who travel that highway every day with our families -- wives, husbands, children, friends, neighbors -- can't afford to wait any longer.

Another day, another fatal accident. If trends persist, those headlines will keep coming.

Who is going to be next?

Our prayers and thoughts go out out the families and friends of the recent fatalities and all of those who have lost their lives on this stretch of roadway that is earning quite the horrible reputation.

So what do we do? Be safe out there, and take care of each other. If we don't look out for one another, there is no guarantee that anyone else will.

We have to become the safety mechanisms by using more caution and less haste, especially on such a busy thoroughfare. Don't risk the tight gap, and be alert to what is going on around you for heaven's sake.

Simply put: slow down. Be careful. Make it last.

Don't become another statistic.

Managing Editor Zack Owensby may be contacted at

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accident, fatal, Hwy. 109, I-40, TDOT, Tennessee Highway Patrol
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