Teen's death prompts on-line petition to 'fix' Chickamauga road's sharp curve
CHICKAMAUGA, WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- Lee Clarkson Road is a lifeline to Chickamauga.
But at least 16 people have wrecked on its sharpest curve, the past five years, including a teenager killed on his way home from wrestling practice in November.
Making the road safer is one woman's personal mission.
It's started with a mother whose own teenager has to drive Lee Clarkson at night.
But it's spreading, much the same way word spread about Jordan Queen's death, on-line.
Beth Oliver-Ibanez wouldn't have to ask where, when her teenage daughter told her about what happened to her classmate Jordan Queen, 17 on November 9th.
"She said Mama, he was just killed," Oliver-Ibanez says.
The Georgia State Patrol reports that Queen's pickup veered off Lee Clarkson Road's sharp, borderline-blind curve, into a tree. The impact is less than 50 yards from where 21-year-old Jared Bean crashed and died seven years ago.
"We know it's a bad road, we've always known it was a bad road," she says. "But something snapped in me when she said that."
Even as Jordan's friends prayed by his parking space at Gordon Lee High School the following morning, Oliver-Ibanez was crafting a petition bearing his picture, titled 'Fix Lee Clarkson Road.'
"What's sad is it that took an email to Harry Maddox," she says.
Maddox is the District Traffic Engineer for Georgia's Department of Transportation (G-DOT).
In a letter to Walker County's Sole Commissioner, Bebe Heiskell, he writes that several fixes are possible, including "Chevron signs on the outside of the curve for both eastbound and westbound traffic, (2) post mounted reflectors to delineate the curve, (3) advance warning signs for both approaches to indicate the curve ahead--with 35 mph speed plates, and (4) thermoplastic centerline and edge line striping."
But the letter also reminds Commissioner Heiskell, Georgia Sen. Jeff Mullis and Oliver-Ibanez that Lee Clarkson is a Walker County road, not a state highway.
Commissioner Heiskell tells Eyewitness News she doesn't know how engineers could make the Lee Clarkson Road better.
"I don't see how you'd change it unless they were to find something deficient," Heiskell says. "Thousands of people drive on that road daily. We believe it is sufficiently safe."
Lee Clarkson Road does have signs warning of a sharp curve, and the potential for slow-moving farm vehicles, on each approach.
"I know they can't afford to fix the entire curve, and straighten it out some," Oliver-Ibanez says. "They still could do something."
Maddox says Walker County could seek reimbursement from Georgia "if the improvements are included in an off-system safety project contract."
But GDOT has not estimated the cost of each potential fix.
"It would require review by our engineers," Maddox says. "From start to finish, these things can take about a year."
Oliver-Ibanez is willing to wait it out
"You can't just blame it on bad drivers," she says.
More than 600 people agree, based on the number of 'Likes' her Facebook page has received.
One comes from Jordan Queen's mother.
"It's time to make a change," Susanne Queen writes. "It's too late to save Jordan, but you never know whose child might be next."
GDOT engineers say they've sent Commissioner Heiskell instructions on how to apply for state money to reimburse a road fix. But Heiskell says it hasn't come to that yet.
Ibanez hopes the Facebook page petition, will turn that corner.