BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) – Firefighters Wednesday said construction and road projects along Harrison Street and St. Louis Street have been delaying response times for nearly two years. According to Ronnie Painter, Fire Captain with the Batesville Fire Department, firefighters have had to use alternative routes and dispatch different trucks to certain locations due to congestion and construction.
"On St. Louis, it's north of town and they're putting a new bridge in. It's down to two lanes," said Painter. "The station we're standing in now (#3), it really impacts it more than it does the other stations because they can't get back into town going over the new bridge at times."
Fire Station #3 is located in the northern part of town on White Drive. Painter said the bridge on North St. Louis forces fire trucks to find alternative routes when the fire is south of the bridge.
"They reroute and go through Westside if it's in that area and the same thing with the downtown truck. If they had to come out here, it depends on what side of town they're going on," said Painter. "In the case where the bridge is right here, this station can get to this end of it and the other truck could come around. It'd take a little bit longer you know. On the other end we've got two stations so both of those trucks could respond to the other end of the bridge on the main end."
According to Mayor Rick Elumbaugh, construction engineers said the project on Harrison Street could be completed by the end of May, weather permitting.
"It'll just make traffic flow better and especially on Harrison Street, of course that's the busiest road in the city of Batesville," said Elumbaugh. "The major part was just moving the utilities out of the road bed and the side right there and the construction part is probably been a year and a half, so it's gone by fairly fast."
Elumbaugh said firefighters know the layout of the city and understand what routes to take in case of emergency.
"Harrison Street is probably about 16 or 17 blocks long of construction. One of the stations is right at the other end of it, probably within seven or eight blocks at the end of the construction and it is difficult for that station to come out on Harrison Street," said Painter. "The traffic has really moved over. On Harrison Street, we do have a turning lane we can turn in. You just have to drive cautious and safely."
Elumbaugh said 8,000 people travel to Batesville each day for work. He said that has caused traffic conditions to be poor.
"We've talked about it several times all during the construction deal. Even station two, which is out on Harrison Street, when construction was right at the station, we actually moved the truck downtown at times just to where he wouldn't be out there and get hung in that station," said Painter. "In the afternoon, especially around three o'clock when the high school gets out, it is really congested at that station out there because the high school traffic comes right at the front of that station."
Painter said firefighters don't have many problems with emergency response times on Harrison because they're able to use the turning lane. Two-lane roads give them the most trouble.
"All of those (volunteer firefighters) are paged out at the same time so they're coming from every direction," said Painter.