Residents along a south Effingham County road are asking county commissioners to close a portion of that road for safety reasons.
Complaints about Herbert Kessler Road being used as a shortcut and of speeders have been ongoing, county staffers said.
“It’s been before the board several times,” said County Administrator David Crawley. “We’re back to this point again.”
Said Commissioner Steve Mason: “I think it’s been passed off and passed off for years and it needs to come to a point where we need to make a decision on what to do.”
Among the options discussed were closing both ends of the road, which stretches from Midland Road to Blue Jay Road, and putting in two cul-de-sacs. That would cut off the center portion of the road.
“The community that lives along Herbert Kessler has some concerns about this road,” said Troy Davis. “We definitely have a serious speeding issue. We have lots of small children who live on the road.”
Said William Cox: “Traffic has increased, accidents have increased. Something’s got to be done for the safety of everyone.”
Davis said there are concerns for the safety and well-being of the children who live along the road, and speed limits along Herbert Kessler cannot be enforced because the road cannot be bonded. The speed limit along Herbert Kessler Road is 25 mph but there is no radar permit for the road.
“This road has never had any improvements to it,” he said. “There are several blind curves. There have been multiple, multiple accidents.”
Said Irma Davis, the daughter of Herbert Kessler: “Most of the people who get in the accidents are teenagers and theirparents don’t even know they’re using the road. I can’t see where closing the road would hurt anybody’s access to their property. Plus, it would provide safety for the children. I think it would be good to close the road or put the cul-de-sacs in, either way.”
Mason said a meeting with residents resulted in landowners offering to give up their property in order for the county to build a cul-de-sac.
“We need to take their offer and construct two cul-de-sacs and limit traffic through it so it’s two roads and we’ll have to rename one of the roads,” he said.
Other county options are to acquire sufficient right-of-way to improve the entire length of the road and to allow it to remain open, or to not improve the road and continue to use it as a prescriptive easement. In the staff’s recommendation to commissioners, they said that when possible transportation corridors should remain open and closing a section of a road to create two dead-end streets may create future transportation issues.
“We believe that closing this roadway will go farther to reduce county costs in future maintenance,” Davis said. “It will extend the life of the existing paved portion of the road by reducing traffic. We also believe the cost to proceed forward to improve this road and pave it will be excessive, given the time it would save if it were used as a cut-through.”
Davis offered a rough estimate of $1 million to realign the road and said money the county may spend on improving Herbert Kessler Road could go toward improving other roads, such as Honey Ridge Road, that are in dire need.
“We’ve got a couple of options here,” he said. “We would like to see the cul-de-sacs put in place.”
Mason said only a few residents live along the northern end of Herbert Kessler Road and get access to their property off Blue Jay Road. Residents who live on the southern end of the road, including those in the Brookfield subdivision, use Midland Road as their connector, he said.
County public works engineer Toss Allen issued a caution on putting in a cul-de-sac just north of the subdivision.
“We don’t own the streets in there,” he said. “We don’t maintain those. Those have never been deicated to the county. We would be pushing traffic through privately maintained streets.”
Putting a curve in also has its share of problems, Allen said.
“The radius is 90 degrees. Our center line radius would require a substantial portion of the lots at the corner of Brookfield Drive and Herbert Kessler,” he added.
Commissioner Reggie Loper was not in favor of putting in the cul-de-sacs, which would essentially be at the northern and southern edges of Irma Davis’property, if installed.
“We don’t need to put cul-de-sacs on it,” he said. “If we’re going to close the road, we need to close the entire road and forget about it. Whoever lives on it can have a private drive. We need to close it and abandon it or fix the road so you can go through there.”
According to Troy Davis, improving the Blue Jay-Herbert Kessler intersection, with the state Department of Transportation’s requirements for entering a curve, would severely impact a landowner.
“On the right hand side, you would have no option whatsoever, given the pond and the wetlands,” he said.
Davis also told commissioners Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie told him that closing the road would not impact his department’s ability to respond to emergencies.
But commissioners and staff also worried about what closing this road would mean for other roads that have the same problem.
“My concern is we have other roads in a similar situation,” said Commissioner Bob Brantley. “If we change this one, you’ll be dealing with those also. If we’re going to close the road or put in a cul de sac, I don’t see the point of maintaining that long, dirt road.”
Added Chairman Dusty Zeigler: “We need to set a criteria to be able to look at all other roads that have the same issue.”
Crawley said county staff will get cost estimates of different scenarios for the road.