Heavy traffic, impatient travelers concern officials

Published 1:46 am Thursday, July 7, 2016

Traffic wasn’t too bad at JCPenney and Rite Aid on Wednesday afternoon.  Josh Dutton/Star-News

Traffic wasn’t too bad at JCPenney and Rite Aid on Wednesday afternoon.
Josh Dutton/Star-News

Heavy traffic in River Falls has become a mammoth problem for the town of 526, which sits at the juncture of two major thoroughfares.

“Traffic has been unreal,” said River Falls Police Chief Greg Jackson.

He said travelers are using Guy Avenue, which is a dirt road off of Hwy. 55, as a cut-through road that normally, only locals use.

He said a resident at the end of the road had expressed concern that motorists were traveling 65 mph down the dirt road.

Coming off the heels of the Independence Day holiday, Jackson described the weekend as “bad, bad, bad” when discussing the traffic.

There have been numerous times when traffic was backed up to Pierce Trucking on Hwy. 55, up to 100 cars back.

Council member James Longmire said a man came to him and asked that he watch traffic.

He said six cars came through and four of them never slowed down for the stop sign.

Traffic on Guy Avenue continued until 11 p.m. one night over the holiday weekend, officer Michael Bishop reported to Jackson.

Jackson said people are also turning right from Hwy. 55 onto Hwy. 84 and doing U-turns back into the beach traffic line.

“They are going to kill someone,” he said.

Jackson said the state was supposed to install bendable poles (in the center line), but that hasn’t come to fruition yet.

“That would hopefully stop some of the those turning right on 84 and making a U-turn,” he said.

Jackson asked the council for permission to have two patrol units out at one time during the busy season.

“On the bad days, someone has to sit at 55/84,” he said.

Mayor Patricia Gunter said she didn’t mind both cars being out.

Mayor Pro Tem Mattie Freeney said she called and talked to Rep. Mike Jones to see if he could get a traffic light put in.

“That may be a possibility,” she said.

Plans are, for a temporary fix, to barricade Guy Avenue on the weekends through Labor Day.

Council member Richard Bowden said he had no problem with the police department doing what was necessary for the safety of the residents of River Falls and the tourists traveling through.

“You are authorized to do whatever is necessary on the weekend to increase the presence,” he said. “I don’t care if we are known as a drug trap or a speed trap.”

Jackson said the traffic was also causing congestion at the intersection near JCPenney in Andalusia.

In Opp, Assistant Chief Kevin Chance said that they have not seen a decrease in traffic on Hwy. 331.

“I would say we had a slight increase, which started around Wednesday afternoon,” he said of the Fourth of July holiday. “The only decrease in traffic we’ve noticed was during spring break.”

But a new development in the route to Panama City Beach has shifted traffic patterns.

“A lot of vacationers are now turning on Hwy. 52 toward Samson especially the ones that are traveling to Panama City Beach,” he said.

The new route is affecting traffic in Florala, FPD chief Sonny Bedsole said.

“We are simply not seeing as much traffic coming this way,” he said.

Bedsole said that GPS is taking people down Hwy. 52 to Samson and that route to Panama City Beach.

Ticket writing is down in Florala as well.

“According to our magistrate, we are down 25 percent from last year,” he said.

Bedsole said some of the traffic decline could be attributed to Bay County, Fla.’s, crackdown on drinking.