Few alternatives to prevent crashes at curve

Overturned onion truck one of 15 accidents
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Officials say there aren’t many alternatives available to prevent accidents on the Highway 65 bypass detour at Lincoln’s south end. That’s in light of a crash that occurred last Thursday night on the detour, involving an overturned semi-truck. The truck, carrying a load of onions, overturned at the 20-mile-per-hour curve around 7:40 p.m., according to Lincoln’s public information officer Jill Thompson. Highway 65, north of Twelve Bridges Drive, was closed for several hours as crews unloaded and uprighted the truck, and put cement dividers back into alignment, Thompson said. Minor injuries were involved in the crash, according to Lincoln Police Chief Paul Shelgren. He estimated the crash to be due to “excessive speed.” Last week’s accident was the 15th to occur on the 20-mile-per-hour curve since the detour opened June 1, according to Lincoln Police Officer Matt Alves. Alternative options to the curve have been looked at, according to Caltrans spokesman Gilbert Mohtes-Chan. One option was diverting traffic to an off ramp with a four-way stop sign in place, Mohtes-Chan said Monday. “It’s not really viable,” Mohtes-Chan said. “It would create a traffic back-up.” Caltrans will continue to monitor the detour to “see ways we can improve signage in terms of approaching the detour,” Mohtes-Chan said. “We have probably a couple dozen signs out there warning motorists as they approach the curve to slow down to the 20 MPH speed limit, and we also have a portable radar speed limit sign,” Mohtes-Chan said. “It’s reached the point where we have as many signs as we can. Otherwise, motorists will have an overload and they start ignoring them if you have too many.” Mohtes-Chan said drivers “should be able to pass through there safely” if the suggested speed limit is observed. “The detour will remain until the new 11.7 mile stretch of freeway is open to traffic, which is scheduled for late summer of 2012,” Mohtes-Chan said. Lincoln City Councilman Tom Cosgrove said Monday that he’s “not sure there is much more Caltrans can do” to prevent further accidents. Cosgrove has been a Placer County Transportation Planning Agency member since 1995, a year after he joined Lincoln City Council. “We have a continuing dialogue going with Caltrans regarding that particular location and we will continue to talk to them about any options that may come up,” Cosgrove said. “The focus really is and should be about the speed of the drivers coming through there.” Cosgrove said an alternative would be to “redesign the entry into town.” “That will probably cause traffic to pack up for a long ways,” Cosgrove said. Cosgrove said Caltrans has done what he hsuggested and put up a variety of signs leading up to the bypass. “There’s a bunch of signage out there so it should be fairly easy to see that there’s a significant curve coming up,” Cosgrove said. “I’m not quite sure how Caltrans can actually make a driver drive better other than give them the adequate notice.”