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Repaving Woodlawn Road – death in the making

A Column by the Editor
web posted July 21, 2008
COLUMN – Living in a rural area such as Edgefield County has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the principal complaints seems to be getting a road paved, and there is a long waiting list. One road that is not on a waiting list is Woodlawn Road in Merriwether, but I wish it were. It is in the final stages of planning and repaving will take place sometime next month. This is a disaster in the making.

The disaster is not that the road is not in need of repair, it is. Ruts, bumps, patches, and broken pavement are found the entire length of the road. It is heavily traveled by those on their way to Clarks Hill Lake because it is a shortcut to Highway 28. Campers, boaters, families seeking a day at the lake travel the road all summer.

It is a very hilly, curvy, and dangerous road with steep drop-offs and steep embankments along the road’s path. Something many people would say that shows the road needs repaving and ordinarily I would agree, but I live on the road and know that the repaving will bring deaths in its wake.

The reason, Woodlawn Road, just as Garrett Road, is popular with “motorcycle enthusiasts” from the CSRA who race down the rural roads at speeds of 80, 90, and 100 mph and often times in groups of ten to twenty riders.

They have been reported to the Sheriff’s Office for years, but being understaffed - by the time a deputy can respond the riders are long gone. Needless to say, the bikers are driving a lot faster than deputies responding to the call. Deputies cannot stay stationary to see the riders when they return due to having to take other calls.

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is no help. Due to budget cutbacks they will only patrol major highways, not side roads maintained by the state.

These riders have wrecked, caused many near crashes, and bullet down the road even in its dilapidated shape. What do you think is going to happen when that popular “bumpy” and curvy road is repaved, or “flat-topped” as bikers like to say?

The number of bike clubs of “crotch rocket” owners, or as I call them future organ donors, will increase, as will the speeds they travel. I know, in my younger foolish years I was one of them. That is until I lost one of my dearest friends in a crash and not long afterwards could have lost my own life in a crash.

Repaving will bring an increase in the number of deaths on Woodlawn Road. In addition to the number of fools on two wheels, recreational motorists will also increase the speeds they travel. Combine the two and a group of motorcycles rounding the countless hilly curves meeting a family hauling a camper head on is going to spell certain disaster and death. It is going to happen, you can mark my words.

I have seen how long it takes to rescue someone from the bottom of a forty-foot ravine on Woodlawn Road. Any hopes of a “golden hour” are gone. Place multiple people injured in the situation and it will take hours. Someone will die.

Even more dangerous is that many of the most populated side roads of Woodlawn are already at the tops of hills, bends of curves, as well as many home driveways. The entrance to Thurmond Road is especially dangerous. I am certain the repaving and the increased speeds of an unpatrolled road will make everyone on Woodlawn Road thankful.

Homeowners on newly paved Briggs Road, intersecting with Woodlawn at Martintown Road, are already contributing the crash on Sunday to increased speeds on the road because of repaving.

I am not a cynic. I am a realist. I have seen death, dismemberment, and the pain of those injured on a regular basis and I do not want to see that number increase needlessly. I can assure you that sentiment is felt by every First Responder, Fireman, EMT, Paramedic, Sheriff’s Deputy, Police Officer, and State Trooper that responds to these calls.

If the state intends to go forward with the repaving of Woodlawn Road and other secondary connector roads then they need to give the Edgefield County Sheriff’s Office the much needed Transportation Safety Grant for additional deputies to patrol such areas. Woodlawn, Garrett, Briggs, Sweetwater, Key, Georgia, and Nicholson Road and similar roads across the county are left unpatrolled. After all, secondary roads in South Carolina remain the leader in the number of fatal crashes and the state cannot spend money patrolling their roads where it could really make a difference.

When is somebody going to wake up and smell the coffee, or death, as the case may be?

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