Mother on mission to have guardrails installed on dangerous Airline Highway

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007


News Editor

DESTREHAN- In 2003, Allen and Sandra Washington lost all four of their children when the car the oldest child was driving unexpectedly drove off Airline Highway and into the adjacent canal. The tragedy has been well documented by the local media and the Washington family has taken the cause of the hazards of Airline Highway as their personal mission.

State Rep. Gary Smith, D Norco, has also joined the fight by introducing a resolution in the regular session in Baton Rouge calling for the Louisiana Department of Transportation (DTD) to further study the feasibility of installing guardrails along a portion of Airline Highway with open access to the canal in St. Charles Parish.

The draft of the resolution includes an urge and request to DTD to study the feasibility of installing guardrails along a portion of Airline Highway and to reestablish the U.S. Highway 61 (Airline Highway) Task Force. The resolution also states that DTD crash records indicate that 1,500 crashes have occurred along the Airline Highway from the St. Charles Parish/Jefferson Parish line to Louisiana Highway 48 in Norco since 1993. As a result of these crashes, DTD established a committee, the U.S. Highway 61 Task Force, to investigate the safety issues along this portion of Airline Highway.

The findings of past task force investigations into the safety issues concerning Airline Highway determined that a guardrail system on the highway would cause vehicles to bounce back into oncoming traffic therefore causing additional injury. The task force also concluded that filling the canal would be too costly and improper, as the canal serves as a major drainage outlet for the area.

&#8220The speed limit in the area was lowered, unnecessary turn lanes were closed and additional turn lanes were installed to alleviate the need for frequent u-turns that caused several of the accidents mentioned in the resolution draft. Despite the recent corrections to the stretch of highway, I am requesting that the task force be reestablished and the issue of installing guardrails and other such highway improvements be revisited by DTD,” said Smith.

In honor of what would be their second to oldest child’s 21st birthday, Sandra Washington has decided to collect the signatures of 21,000 people to add to a petition that she will personally deliver to Governor Kathleen Blanco requesting that something finally be done about the dangerous driving conditions of Airline Highway.

&#8220We have seen first hand the dangers of Airline Highway. There have been at least four additional vehicles that have driven into the canal and caused injury, if not taken lives. There have been studies by the Louisiana Department of Transportation into the feasibility of correcting the problem with guardrails but so far nothing has been done,” said Sandra Washington.

Washington will be collecting signatures today at Subway on Ormond Blvd. in Destrehan from 5-8 p.m. and again on Wed. May 16 at Frostop in Destrehan from 4-8 p.m. If you would like to add your name the petition or would like to volunteer your time to help collect signatures contact Sandra Washington at 504-305-1380.