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Our Opinion: Make a safer Center

April 19, 2002

It's a shame that it takes a death to bring attention to a problem, but unfortunately that is exactly what has happened in Westmorland. The problem exists on Center Street, a major artery for truck traffic feeding off and onto Forrester Road.

One question that quickly comes to mind is why a major trucking artery was designed to feed into a residential area of a city, even a city as small as Westmorland? Thousands of trucks make their way off and on Forrester via Center Street each month. On that same roadway are City Hall, a park and a community basketball court, and nearby is the city swimming pool.

There also are houses on Center and children play not far from the passing big rigs. Certainly children crossing the roadway is a regular occurrence for many Westmorland residents. It's amazing that more people have not been hurt or killed on Center. It is a dangerous combination to have large rigs pass through what should be a quiet community neighborhood.


But a death has occurred. A 6-year-old girl recently was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer rig on Center. Center lacks proper lighting. This death may have been prevented if city and county leaders had really thought about the conditions on Center.

A few years back there was debate over who had responsibility for the maintenance of Center — the city because Center is a city street, or the county because Center is connected to Forrester, a county road? Whatever resolution was reached did not go far enough to address the safety issue.

Now the city is taking action. A stop sign will be placed on Center and Second streets to slow traffic and light poles are going to be placed along Center at First and Second streets to illuminate the street. That will help, but it will not solve the overall issue.

Parents also must make sure they talk to their kids about the dangers on Center and teach them how to be safe when crossing that and other streets.

Beyond that the county and the city need to look into what possibilities exist to make Center safer. If there is a way to reroute truck traffic without creating a traffic danger elsewhere, that should be considered. We don't have an answer. There likely is not a simple answer, but there must be discussion.

This is not an issue that will simply go away. One death is too high a price to pay to bring change.

Let's take action now to prevent any future tragedies.

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