Elected officials in North Mobile County are calling attention to what they claim is the deadliest highway in the state. U.S. Route 45 is a four-lane highway between Chicago and the Mississippi-Alabama border, where it becomes a heavily trafficked, high-speed two-lane terminating on Springhill Avenue in Midtown.
On March 28, four people were killed, including an 8-month-old infant, in a head-on collision on U.S. Route 45 in Saraland, the latest in a string of deaths over recent years.
“We’ve lost 73 to 75 people since 2016,” State Rep. Shane Stringer said. “Highway 45 is the deadliest highway in Alabama. Over the years, the traffic has picked up more and more due to the industry, and we still have a lot of traffic coming in from the other states that are going to our beaches in South Baldwin County. And with the recent wreck that took the lives of four people, including the 8-month-old child, it really sparked my interest.”
On Monday, Stringer gathered officials from Washington County, Citronelle, Saraland, Prichard and Mobile for a press conference, where they stood behind photographs of deadly accident scenes along the highway and asked state transportation officials to add it to its priority list.
Stringer claims the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) typically puts more emphasis on traffic counts than accidents when vetting projects for its priority list, so U.S. Route 45 often comes up short when compared to faster-growing areas of the state.
State Rep. Brett Easterbrook, of Fruitdale in Washington County, said the road was targeted for expansion in a fuel tax bill in the 1990s, but the earmark was pulled after the bill was passed. Stringer said ALDOT has cost estimates to four-lane all 50 miles of the road in Alabama, and money should be available through the Rebuild Alabama Act, a gas tax increase that was passed in 2019.
“This is not a cheap venture, but when you start putting safety ahead of congestion, it becomes an important factor,” Easterbrook said. “Once we place safety as the highest priority, they will start laying asphalt on this road. This is the deadliest road in the state and it’s time to adjust.”
Tony Rutland lost his sister, 49-year-old Tracy Sheffield, in a deadly two-vehicle crash on U.S Route 45 in 2015.
“When my sister lost her life, it didn’t only kill her, but it started killing my family and it killed my mother,” he said. “It’s a sad situation for us, but also for many other people.”
Citronelle Mayor Jason Stringer, Shane’s brother, is a first responder. He said in his career he’s personally picked up the pieces of 25 fatalities on the highway.
“You’ve got speed, you’ve got congestion, very few places to pass, so people take undue risks,” he said. “The majority of accidents we have are head-on collisions. It’s to the point now where we expect support from the state or we’re going to let our voices be heard through the voting process and get people elected who will support what is a huge safety issue for our community.”
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.