Local officials discuss safety concerns regarding dangerous stretch of Interstate 26
Published 12:28 pm Friday, June 10, 2022
Mile markers 62 and 63 eastbound see an average of 20 wrecks a month
POLK COUNTY––Local fire departments have responded to a high number of accidents that have occurred on Interstate 26 East at mile markers 62 and 63, and recently shared with the Bulletin why that area is so dangerous for drivers.
Chief Joshua Walton at Tryon Fire Department says that an average of 2 to 3 accidents a week occur at mile markers 62 and 63, with an average of about 20 accidents per month.
Chief Walton says that there are several reasons more accidents seem to happen there compared to other mile markers on that stretch of interstate. He says that if you’re coming down the grade, overheated brakes are a factor, as well as speed. Traffic slows down in that area and drivers don’t realize it, so “it’s a mix of everything,” Chief Walton says. “We have trucks that roll, cars that roll. It’s such a variety.”
Will Craine at Columbus Fire Department says that CFD is dispatched to that area along I-26 sometimes 3 or 5 times a week, especially in the spring and summer.
“During the summertime, there’s an influx in traffic,” Craine says, also stating that failed brakes and blown tires are a factor in the number of wrecks at mile markers 62 and 63. He encourages those who travel between the Saluda and Columbus exits frequently to get their car’s brakes checked often, to prevent any issues that might occur due to holding brakes in for an extended time while driving down the grade.
Chief Walton discloses the deeper-rooted issue about the Saluda Grade that most people don’t recognize.
“On both sides of the grade, up and down, the side of the road is sloped, so it sucks drivers down,” he says. “It’s the angle of the slope. If you come across the white line just enough, especially tractor-trailers, you can’t get it back.”
Walton says NCDOT (North Carolina Department of Transportation) is aware of the problem at mile markers 62 and 63 and is working on a plan to fix the angle of the dangerous slope.