How many times have you stared longingly at Sonic, Zaxby's or Cook Out from the other side of the street and been unable to access your desired destination because of the medians along Highway 12? In other towns, and previously in this one, one can simply pull into the middle lane and turn into the establishment they are trying to reach.
However, here in Starkville, we are blocked, literally, from satisfying our consumer desires by a wall of concrete. To access businesses on the other side of the street, we must continue driving down the road and find a place to execute a usually very questionably-safe, for other cars on the road as well as those inside the car, U-turn, all thanks to the medians installed a few years ago on Starkville's Highway 12.
Additionally, not all of us are experts at whipping into a U-turn, resulting in an embarrassing 20-point turn in the middle of the road, usually in front of oncoming traffic. Not all of us are capable of taking matters into our own hands by foregoing all law and order and popping over the median in one of the massive “yee-yee” trucks, by which Starkville is heavily populated.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), medians serve one or more of three main purposes, and may or may not be the best choice for improving traffic flow.
First, they manage traffic and “provide comfortable left-hand turning pockets with fewer or narrower lanes.”
Secondly, they provide a safe space for pedestrians crossing the street, and thirdly, they provide a space for additional landscaping and beautification.
I, for one, have never looked at the medians on Highway 12 and thought to myself, “Wow, those medians sure are a sight for sore eyes. This really improves the aesthetic of our town.”
I also cannot remember ever having seen any pedestrians chilling on the median, taking a break from strolling across the “commercial lifeblood of Starkville,” as Highway 12 was called by Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert regarding its medians, as reported by Carl Smith of the Columbus Dispatch.
Additionally, the FHWA qualifies the first statement about left-hand turning pockets: “Desired turning movements need to be carefully provided so that motorists are not forced to travel on inappropriate routes such as residential streets or an unsafe U-turn condition is not created.”
I have definitely executed my fair share of interesting turning techniques, including multi-point turns on residential streets, pulling into and backing out of unknown driveways on residential streets and, of course, plenty of U-turning.
Thus, Starkville's medians do not fulfill the three-fold purpose of medians as outlined by the FHWA.
As reported by Brad Robertson with Starkville Daily News , the City of Starkville Board of Aldermen approved a project for sidewalks to be added along Highway 12 to improve safety. Similarly, the addition of the medians several years ago was also passed with the purpose of safety in mind. According to the same Columbus Dispatch article, the goal of adding medians was to reduce traffic accidents resultant from dangerous left-turn decisions.
While I am confident Starkville has their citizens' best interests in mind, I contest that, in America, we should have the freedom to make our own decisions, and this includes poor left-turning decisions.
As with the proposed soda ban in New York City which would have prevented citizens from buying extra-large soft drinks in an effort to curb obesity, but was ultimately rejected by the highest court in the state, just because something might be good for a person does not mean it should become rule of law.
Of course, rule of law becomes necessary when these personal freedoms infringe on another's personal safety—namely, turning left into oncoming traffic and causing a potentially life-threatening wreck.
However, as the FHWA pointed out, the addition of medians can very easily cause further dangers for motorists such as “unsafe U-turn conditions” and, based on my personal experience of being stuck with my car horizontally across two lanes of Highway 12 in the midst of a U-turn with a semi-truck barreling towards me, medians ultimately push Starkville drivers to make unsafe and risky driving decisions that can also result in life-threatening car accidents.
Yes, the medians probably prevent some auto accidents, but at what cost? Medians cause daily, never-ending frustration and annoyance while putting my life and others' in danger by forcing me to utilize my less-than-impressive U-turn skills.
I have the perfect solution to this median mess. Simply rip them out and plop the concrete on the other side of the road, creating the newly approved sidewalks from concrete we have already paid for, thus saving thousands of taxpayer dollars and creating a free and happy Starkville for all on the road.