Too Many Lives Lost At Dangerous Intersection

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Dave Goddard lost his wife and two children there.

Only last week, a Canadian tourist died there in a horrific collision with a Payson driver who had his wife and young child with him.

A Payson physician and his wife were injured there when their SUV collided with another car.

The common denominator in all three crashes -- which have occurred in less than a year's time -- is that one of the drivers failed to yield for a stop sign as they exited Bush Highway onto the Beeline.

Goddard's SUV was northbound on the Beeline when it was struck by a vehicle driven by a suspected drunk driver.

The Canadian senior citizen, believed to be driving Bush Highway for the first time, also drove through the stop sign and was broadsided by a 2006 Chevrolet truck driven by Mark Kile.

Dr. Allen Michels' northbound SUV was clipped by a vehicle exiting Bush Highway and being driven by a 19-year-old suspected of driving impaired. Michels and his wife, Margaret, were injured in the accident. Their two young children were unharmed.

How many more people have to be injured or killed before the Arizona Department of Transportation takes measures to correct what is fast becoming one of the deadliest intersections in Arizona?

The fact that this intersection is a deadly hazard hasn't gone unnoticed.

Payson Police Chief Gordon Gartner says he doesn't drive through it, northbound or southbound, "without having one foot on the brake."

Department of Public Safety officers say they are careful to slow and brake when driving through the intersection even if they are responding to an emergency situation.

Doubling the danger of the intersection is that some of the drivers exiting Bush Highway are returning from outings at Saguaro Lake, which often means they've been consuming alcohol under the hot Arizona sun.

In two of the three accidents this year, alcohol was a factor.

As hazardous as the intersection has proven to be, ADOT officials have not made safety improvements there in more than a decade.

The intersection remains much the same as it was when speeds were slower and much less traffic flowed on Beeline and Bush highways.

The solution should be the eventual installation of an overpass that would alleviate congestion rather than simply installing stop lights.

"I don't think lights will do the job," DPS officer Frank Valenzuela said. "And (stop) signs certainly haven't."

Goddard has said one of his goals is to kick-start a movement to improve the intersection so that no other father and husband will suffer as he has since the July 2005 crash that claimed his family.

Whatever the solution, it's time for ADOT to step up to the plate and allocate the funds needed to plan and build a safe and risk-free intersection.

One more life lost there is one too many.

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