NORMAN — Law enforcement agencies and city officials are working together to address safety concerns on State Highway 9 and U.S. 77.
Norman police, Cleveland County sheriff's deputies and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers will step up enforcement on the highways, particularly targeting speeding, inattentive driving and driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, officials said.
In a memorandum to the city council and Mayor Cindy Rosenthal, Police Chief Keith Humphrey and Public Works Director Shawn O'Leary detailed efforts to improve the safety of the two highway corridors where fatality accidents have happened recently.
Most recently, two people were killed and two others injured in a six-car pileup Dec. 11 on U.S. 77 at W Tecumseh Road.
On Dec. 6, a man was killed and others injured in a head-on collision on SH 9 at 120th Ave. SE. Another man was killed and others injured Nov. 21 on SH 9 at 136th Avenue Southeast.
A third fatality, involving a woman, happened on Feb. 20 on SH 9 at 120th SE, Humphrey said.
Humphrey said 36 fatal accidents have occurred in Norman between 2008 and 2012, with seven of them on SH 9.
Police supervisors review citywide traffic data every month to determine causes and locations that are particularly dangerous, the police chief said. The information provides a “starting point” for implementing accident prevention measures.
The department regularly sends out news releases emphasizing safe driving habits, Humphrey said, and reconfigures patrol beats as necessary to target those locations deemed particularly dangerous.
O'Leary said his department works specifically with the state Transportation Department to develop short-term, mid-term and long-term strategies to reduce traffic accidents, and especially traffic fatalities, on U.S. 77 and S H9.
Long-term plans call for the widening of S H9 from 24th Avenue SE to 72nd Avenue SE, O'Leary said.
The widening will occur in two stages, with the first project beginning in June and resulting in a wider highway from 24th Avenue SE to 36th Avenue SE. About a year later, the state will begin a widening project on SH 9 from 36th to 72nd, O'Leary said.
Long-range plans call for SH 9 to be widened to the Pottawatomie County line, although no funds have been budgeted for work beyond 72nd, O'Leary said.
Immediate steps to improve safety include putting feedback trailers that record motorists' speeds at SH9 and 120th, U.S. 77 near Franklin Road, and at 48th Avenue NW and Tecumseh Road, which is another accident-prone area, O'Leary said.
Speed trailers are an educational device designed to increase motorists' awareness of how fast they are traveling, O'Leary said.
One long-term improvement under development is the installation of a traffic signal at 48th NW and Tecumseh, he said.
“Any fatality accident is one too many,” Humphrey said during a recent city council meeting.
East Norman resident Bobby Stevens addressed the council at the same meeting, calling on council members to write the governor and legislators to draw attention to the need for improvements on SH 9.
“You're going to have to come together as a whole or a lot of people are going to die out there. Put some stoplights up, put in some turn lanes, no passing signs. Do something. This is a dangerous highway,” he said.
Stevens said he has come before the council with safety concerns about the highway “many times before. You all know how bad it is. I know how bad it is. Something is going to have to be done about it.”