The cloverleaf entrance from Bradley Park Drive onto west-bound J.R. Allen Parkway will be closed permanently on Friday, city officials have announced. Drivers wanting to enter J.R. Allen headed toward downtown and Phenix City will use the straight entrance ramp across Bradley Park Drive from the closed cloverleaf.
The Georgia Department of Transportation decided this summer to close the portion of the cloverleaf intersection for safety reasons, according to Deputy City Manager David Arrington.
In May of 2011, 18-year-old Natalie Windham, a Smiths Station High School senior, was killed when a driver merging onto the J.R. Allen caused her to swerve, lose control of her SUV and flip over onto the median. The driver, 51-year-old Walter R. Holler, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and failure to stop and render aid in December of 2011 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with five to serve.
The entrance to the west-bound ramp has been altered to accommodate traffic from both directions and a left-turn lane has been added to aid in traffic flow.
Some motorists are already using the left-turn lane to access the west-bound ramp, but the cloverleaf will remain open until Friday, city officials say.
According to the city’s traffic count map, J.R. Allen handles about 55,000 vehicles a day in that stretch and Bradley Park Drive sees about 25,000 there. City Traffic Engineer Ron Hamlett has said there are no plans to put up a traffic signal at the intersection. Arrington said there are still no plans for a traffic signal “at this time.”
The change in highway access is a temporary fix, Arrington said, implemented to make the intersection safer while the DOT decides on a permanent fix.
The DOT is considering using “collector/distributors,’ similar to those used at the intersection of J.R. Allen and Interstate 185, Arrington said. Those allow motorists entering and leaving the interstate to leave the main traffic and merge with other vehicles at a much lower speed, he said.
The permanent change at Bradley Park will be a DOT project, as is the current temporary fix, Arrington said.