Dangerous road

After ten years, tens of thousands of tax dollars, and dozens of serious accidents, Mid-Southerners are still waiting for the City of Memphis to make good on its plans to redo a dangerous stretch of road. Those who live around one stretch of Overton Crossing in Frayser want to know how many more people have to die before the City makes good on its years-old promise to make the road safer.

One year after an SUV crowded with children slid off a winding stretch of Overton Crossing in Frayser those who tried in vain to save them are still pleading for the City to make the road safer. Janie Wilson, concerned citizen said, "Too many people are getting hurt. And the loss of life. And there's going to be a lot more loss of life." Albert Amoateng says he nearly lost his after wiping out earlier this year and winding up in the ditch. It only took us a few minutes to see why he says drivers take their lives into their own hands here. A packed SUV ran off the road at Overton Crossing and Portland last November, killing four children. Back in March 2000, paramedics rushed another seven people to the hospital after a day care van collided head-on with a car near Woodlawn Terrace. All totaled, Memphis Police records show more than 50 wrecks along the stretch of Overton Crossing between Whitney and James Roads in the last five years. But City leaders started talking about redesigning the road ten years ago, widening it from 22 feet to 52 feet from curb to curb, straightening it out, filling in the deep drainage ditches that run along side and replacing them with giant under ground pipes. The city council even approved millions of dollars to do it. But so far neighbors and council members say all they've seen are empty promises. E.C. Jones, city council said, "It's a foot-dragging kind of a situation and I'm tired of it." So is City Engineer Wain Gaskins. "I can understand their frustration. I feel it myself sometimes." Gaskins is actually the third city engineer who's worked on the project. Gaskins said, "For us here in Memphis, this is about as challenging terrain-wise as we get." It's a project so challenging the engineer's office gave up doing it in-house and eventually farmed out the design work to a private company. Gaskins added, "Other projects were falling behind and it wasn't appropriate to sacrifice the time frame of all other projects for that one project."

The final plans came back a couple years ago. They cost city taxpayers nearly a quarter million dollars. So far those plans have sat on a shelf, along with 130-thousand dollars worth of land lining Overton Crossing, also paid for with your tax dollars. " But with not so much as a new guard rail so far, neighbors who helped pay for all those plans for Overton Crossing are left crossing their fingers. The city Engineer's office now plans to put the eight million dollar project up for bid later this month. Construction is scheduled to start in January. We'll keep track of the progress and let you know if taxpayers get what they paid for.