The Jackson County Commission is voted to sign a resolution and project agreement regarding the safety project for County Road 77. County Road 77 runs from State Road 79 South near the county line up the East end of Grant Mountain near Swearingen. The area is referred to as Dobbins Gap. The county was awarded a grant through the High Risk Rural Roads Program. The estimated total amount for the project is $46,606. The county is responsible for a 10% match for the project.
County Engineer Jonathan Campbell applied for the grant based on the county road with the largest crash data. Between 2016 and 2018, there were 14 crashes on County Road 77. There was a single fatality from those 14 crashes. Five people were injured as a result of those crashes. Campbell said the primary cause of the crashes was speed. He said all the crashes occurred going down the mountain and negotiating a curve. Campbell said the amount of the grant is not enough to re-pave the road, but there are improvements that would make the road safer to travel. Campbell said they would update centerline and edge striping. They would update pavement markers and traffic control markings. They would install rumble strips and flashing LED curve signs around the curve. They would also install optical speed bars on both sides of the road. Campbell said the optical speed bars create an illusion that the driver is going faster than they actually are.
The High Risk Rural Roads program is a federal program to reduce the statewide fatality rate on rural roads. It is not an annual program, and it is triggered by the state fatality rate. Projects are evaluated and prioritized by committee. The priority is on safety related projects to reduce the amount of severe crashes on rural roads. The project may be completed by a contract through state services, on call bids, or force account work.
Commission Chairman Tim Guffey said it is always good when the county can get help to make roads safer, and this project would be beneficial for the county. Guffey also said the county would take anything it could get to improve its roads.
Campbell said plans for the project are almost ready, but they will require ALDOT’s review and agreement. He expects the project to begin in either September or October.