The Georgia Department of Transportation will soon close one section of the cloverleaf intersection of Bradley Park Drive and the J.R. Allen Parkway for safety reasons, city officials say.
The move will be a short-term solution to what has been a frequent site of accidents and near misses, David Arrington said. A long-term solution will be determined by the DOT and implemented at some point in the future.
Soon, traffic headed west on Bradley Park will no longer be able to enter J.R Allen heading west toward Phenix City via the cloverleaf. Instead, drivers will have to turn left onto the straight on ramp currently used only by east-bound traffic on Bradley Park, Arrington said.
Bradley Park Drive at that point is five lanes with a turning lane. The DOT, which will fully fund the project, will use the center lane for left turns for westbound traffic to access J.R. Allen, Arrington said.
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”Based on accident history -- and there was one fatal accident at that location -- Georgia DOT has come back to us with a recommendation for a short-term solution for safety at the intersection,” Arrington said. “We all agree that there is a better long-term solution that we need to look for. When Georgia DOT does come back and we work with them, we’re going to be looking at the interchange as a whole, not just at this side.”
The short merging space drivers entering and exiting J.R. Allen face has long been a source of complaints and accidents, one of them fatal.
In May of 2011, an 18-year-old Natalie Windham, a Smiths Station High School senior, was killed when she lost control of her SUV while driving on the J.R. Allen Parkway at Bradley Drive.
Police said a car entering J.R. Allen from Bradley Park improperly merged in front of Windham's, causing her to swerve, lose control of her vehicle, slide into the median and flip over.
Walter R. Holler, 51, was charged with vehicular homicide after police reported that his driving was "a proximate cause to Windham's crash." He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and failure to stop and render aid in December of 2011. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with five to serve and five on parole.
Arrington said DOT officials hope to have the project completed by Thanksgiving because of the high volume of holiday traffic usually seen in that area.
Normal traffic counts are around 55,000 vehicles a day on J.R. Allen and about 25,000 a day on Bradley Park, according to the city’s traffic count map, but increase during the holiday shopping season.
The ramp destined to be closed will remain open until improvements are made to the entrance to the ramp that will soon handle all west-bound traffic. The ramp angles into Bradley Park Drive at an angle convenient for east-bound traffic but would be awkward for west-bound drivers. It is currently being widened to accommodate traffic from both directions.
Arrington said the DOT will not close the cloverleaf ramp until all the other improvements have been made. Then, he expects the DOT will give the city a couple of weeks notice so it can notify nearby businesses and citizens.
There are currently no plans to install a traffic signal at the intersection, according to Ron Hamlett, sity traffic engineer.
Hamlett said the long-term approach to the interchange might be to create what are called “collector/distributors,” which are approach roads such as are used at the nearby interchange of the J.R. Allen Parkway and Interstate-185. They separate the speeding traffic from that which is slowing down to exit and speeding up to merge onto the main roadway, Hamlett said.