West Memphis concerned about pedestrians crossing interstates to get to Southland

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- Some gamblers are risking more than money to make it to a West Memphis gaming and racing facility.

City officials say it’s recently been brought to their attention some gamblers are walking to Southland Park Gaming & Racing and crossing two interstates to get there.

“And then crawling over the wall in between the median; it’s hard for me to believe people are taking that kind of risk," said Eddie Brawley, West Memphis MPO study director.

Brawley said one of the nearby motel owners reached out with concerns after seeing people cross I-55 and I-40 to get to Southland, saying they come from motels and truck stops to gamble.

The six lanes of traffic sees an average of 70,000 vehicles a day.

“On a foggy night or a foggy morning, that can turn into a fatality in my opinion," said Malcolm Hunt who lives nearby.

Studies show three pedestrians have died in the area over a five-year span.

“I’ve seen individuals crossing, but the traffic never slacks up, so I guess they wait  for so many cars and then just try to run across, but I just can’t believe it, like I’m in shock, can’t believe they’re doing it," said driver Tammy Hunt.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation says this is a statewide problem. In a ten year period, 40 pedestrians were killed on state freeways.

“It’s against the law to do that, but people are taking that chance," said Brawley.

ARDOT leaders requested to be part of a national study on the matter, since it seems these pedestrian crashes are happening on freeways across the country.

If approved to be funded, the study would analyze the problem, trends and how to prevent it.

“If one life is saved, it’s worth it obviously," said Brawley.

State officials say they’re not sure when they’ll find out if they’ve been approved for the study.