Jeff “Clem” Clemons

Jeff “Clem” Clemons is seen at the Cullman County Courthouse on March 3, 2020.

A problem area along Alabama Highway 69 near Cold Springs is getting some attention from county road officials, after years of traffic near-misses and accidents — some of them fatal — in the Bug Tussle community.

The Cullman County Commission has cleared all the needed administrative hurdles with the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), which controls state highway changes, and is ready to install new flashing caution lights and warning signage at the intersection. The stretch of road is a long-acknowledged site of low visibility for drivers approaching over the hill from the west.

The new caution features will be installed near the intersection of Highway 69 and County Road 54, which intersects with the highway from the Cold Springs side just east of the new Dollar General store at the Alabama Highway 91 intersection.

The speed limit in the area is 45 mph, though county commission chairman Jeff Clemons noted that unfamiliar drivers often aren’t alert to the area’s potential for danger. “A lot of people may not even see the signs that are there now. But hopefully, these lights will draw attention to an area that’s had some tragedies over the years. The lights are similar to the ones that the county had installed at Bethel not long ago; they rotate and flash and are much harder to miss.”

The County Road 1117 intersection with U.S. Highway 278 at Bethel received new cautionary lights and markers, powered by off-grid solar batteries, more than a year ago after years of pleading from local legislators for increased traffic controls at the low-visibility crossing. The new markers going up at Bug Tussle will be similar to the ones at Bethel, with the lights mounted on elevated posts at the roadside, and facing both directions of traffic.

“Our biggest priority should be on safety, and this has been a problem area,” said Clemons. “We’ve had two fatalities there probably in the last six months or so, and several accidents with serious injuries. Over the years, in that stretch near [Highway] 91 and [County Road] 54, there’s probably been close to a dozen fatalities along Highway 69 in that area. There’s a new Dollar General there now, which only increases the amount of traffic turning onto and off of the road, so it was definitely time for us to figure out a way to get people alerted to what’s ahead and to slow down.”

The county has ordered the new equipment through ALDOT, and will install it as soon as it arrives, said Clemons — likely within the next two weeks. The intersection is a heavily-used turnoff for school-bound traffic following County Road 54 to Cold Springs, as well as for drivers who connect with Highway 91 only a short distance from the Cold Springs turnoff.

“It’ll be a lot easier for people to notice who’re coming east on [Highway] 69 from the Walker County side. The way it is now, when someone’s pulling out, it’s very hard to see what you’re pulling out into, and can be very hard to avoid a collision,” said Clemons. “We’re hopeful that it will be a similar result to what Bethel has now. Since the lights were installed at Bethel, accidents at that intersection have been reduced — which is what we’re hoping to accomplish at Bug Tussle.”

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