Motorists who take the J.R. Allen Parkway eastbound exit to Veterans Parkway should make other plans overnight Wednesday into Thursday.
Construction to add another lane to the exit will close the ramp from 11 p.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Thursday, Columbus Deputy City Manager David Arrington said Tuesday.
“They’re going to do a concrete pour in that outside lane,” said Arrington, noting the exit ramp is one of three pieces of work in that heavily trafficked area that should be completed by December.
Another piece of the overall project calls for extending the exit ramp from Interstate 185 onto the J.R. Allen Parkway distributor lanes to the Veterans Parkway exit so that those merging from the interstate don’t have to enter flowing traffic just to reach the exit. The intersection already can give drivers anxious moments as the J.R. Allen and I-185 lanes merge into one just prior to the quick exit to the right with a very short deceleration lane.
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“You don’t have to merge and then get back over. It will eliminate a merging conflict that currently exists,” said Arrington, who didn’t know how many accidents have occurred at the intersection through the years. “But it’s such a short section and there’s space (land) available. We got with DOT and they agreed to fund it.”
Columbus is paying the $531,000 tab for the exit ramp work and $36,000 for the Veterans Parkway turning lane, Arrington said, while the Georgia Department of Transportation is paying $338,000 for the I-185 ramp extension to the exit ramp.
Before the Veterans Parkway ramp work, which began a few weeks ago, there was one lane at the exit leading up to two left-hand turning lanes at a traffic light and a very short right turn space. When work is finished, there should be two longer left turning lanes and a dedicated right turning lane after exiting the parkway.
In the past, motorists turning right and north onto Veterans Parkway often have driven off the road, onto the grass and dirt, to pass left-turning vehicles rather than wait until traffic allowed them to do so closer to the right turn.
Though it’s a late-night construction closure Wednesday into Thursday, it has the potential to cause some confusion, with drivers who want to use that exit to access the Columbus Park Crossing area or north Veterans Parkway needing to take an alternate route, such as Moon Rood.
Donna Newman, the city’s director of engineering, said the road work at the Veterans Parkway exit is not necessarily because of an original faulty design. It’s simply the result of commercial and residential development in that area of north Columbus pumping up traffic volume to the point that improvements are now needed.
A 2012 Georgia Department of Transportation traffic count shows 32,970 vehicles per day passing the exit that will be closed tonight. On Veterans Parkway, between the exit and Columbus Park Crossing, 30,340 vehicles move through that area. Just north of the exit on Veterans Parkway and south of Williams Road, there are 19,010 vehicles daily in that area.
For history buffs out there, construction on J.R. Allen Parkway — initially called the North Bypass — began in 1980, with it opening in phases from 1984 to 1988 and linking Columbus with Phenix City. The four-lane highway at that time stretched east to the intersection of Manchester Expressway.
The parkway is named in honor of the late Columbus Mayor J.R. Allen, who died in a north Georgia plane crash in 1973. The highway was built at a reported cost of $69 million.