By Tia Lynn Ivey
A serious wreck backed up traffic on the 411 Madison Bypass after three cars collided at the seemingly ill-fated Bethany Road Intersection last Friday, May 10. This makes for the third major accident in less than a month at the Bethany Road Intersection. No serious injuries were incurred at the most recent accident last Friday, but one of the drivers was transported to Morgan Medical Center and all three cars were severely damaged and towed from the scene.
According to Georgia State Patrol (GPS), Jadon Slaughter, 20, was driving Southbound on the bypass in a 2016 Dodge Challenger and attempted to make a left-hand turn onto Bethany Road. As Slaughter began crossing the northbound side of 441, he was struck by two-oncoming vehicles that were unable to stop in time. Matthew Withers, 51, of Madison, was driving a 2000 Dodge Dakota, carrying another passenger. Withers was later transported to Morgan Medical Center after the accident for minor injuries. Maria Prior, of Madison, was driving a 2010 Lincoln MKZ, which also struck Slaughter’s vehicle.
According to GPS Officer John Cook, Slaughter attempted a last second left turn at the intersection and did not see the oncoming cars until it was too late. As officers worked the scene, a small fender bender occurred between two more cars at the same intersection while traffic was backed up due to the first accident.
Another serious accident occurred at the Bethany Road intersection on April 25, sending one driver to an Athens hospital for treatment, leaving two dogs in need of rescue, and two vehicles totaled. On April 20, another two-vehicle wreck at the intersection resulted in two injuries, with both parties transported to the hospital, and one car catching on fire.
“We’ve seen some serious wrecks out there this past month,” said Gene Porter, fire marshal for the City of Madison.
The Bethany Road Intersection has been the subject of an ongoing controversy for years, with local leaders warning of its inherent danger due to hilly blindspots from both directions. Officials from Morgan County, the City of Madison, local law enforcement, business owners, church leaders and everyday local citizens have all petitioned the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for a traffic light to be installed at the intersection for years to no avail. GDOT maintains that the intersection does not attract enough traffic flow to warrant a traffic light. But local leaders worry that the ongoing development along 411 and connecting roadways will lead to even more accidents, and potentially fatalities, at this unregulated intersection.
With the nearby construction of a consolidated school campus, the new Morgan Medical Center, a coming large-scale senior community, and a coming daycare center out of Redeemer Church of Madison, local leaders are hoping GDOT will see the need for a traffic light. But in the meantime, local officials believe the increased traffic flow along the bypass will leave more motorists vulnerable to the blindsided intersection.
Despite a resolution passed by the City of Madison and Morgan County asking for traffic light in December, GDOT has rejected the request again and has–to date–only agreed to install an RCUT as a temporary solution.
“We have been told that GDOT is only going to do an RCUT,” said County Manager Adam Mestres in an interview last month. The RCUT would be a temporary solution, with GDOT proposing a roundabout in the future instead of a traffic light.
An R-CUT design would require drivers seeking to cross over 441 or make a left turn onto 441 from Bethany Road to first make a right turn onto the highway. Once the right turn is made, drivers would have several hundred feet to get into the left lane before approaching a turning lane and opening to make a U-Turn back on 411 in the desired direction. According to the Federal Highway Administration, an “R–CUT intersection accommodates these movements by requiring drivers to turn right onto the main road and then make a U-turn maneuver at a one-way median opening 400 to 1,000 feet after the intersection.”
County Commissioner Ron Milton, Madison Mayor Fred Perriman, and other local elected officials have all gone on record to advocate for a traffic light at the intersection. But GDOT is the sole agency with the authority to approve one. As accidents happen more frequently at the intersection, local leaders’ hands remained tied. No start-date for the RCUT project has been announced.