More than two decades after considering plans to improve the traffic bottleneck on the Buena Vista Road bridge over Interstate 185, the Columbus Consolidated Government is closer than ever to making necessary improvements.
The Georgia Department of Transportation signed off on a $47 million project last fall to widen the bridge and construct what is called a Diverging Diamond Interchange. It will be a first in Columbus after a similar construction in Atlanta, said Rick Jones, director of the Planning Department.
Concerns over traffic at Buena Vista Road and other snarled locations have been the source of questions from residents for years.
“We are moving forward with it now,” Jones said. “We are trying to make some headway with it more than anything else.”
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The project came together after the city considered for years a plan to just widen the bridge on Buena Vista and ease the traffic problems. Jones said that was a federal project, requiring $40 to $50 million alone just to acquire the right-of-way. The project also was to stretch east to Floyd Road and possibly west to Steam Mill Road from the bridge.
“The original concept was to get traffic moved through the area,” he said. “We couldn’t afford to do that project the way they had it set out.”
It was put back on the shelf until the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and the Transportation Act came in 2012 . “We made sure we were part of the project,” Jones said. “The project is not as big as it was 10 years ago. “
The Diverging Diamond Interchange or DDI is considered a popular choice for high-volume interchanges like the one on Buena Vista Road. It can move traffic in more than one direction at once while reducing the chances for crashes.
In the current construction of the interchange at I-185, studies show there are 26 potential conflict points for crashes. With the DDI, those points are reduced by almost 50 percent. A DOT map shows there are 19,000 vehicles traveling west from the bridge and 30,000 going east from the bridge daily.
“The idea is to alleviate some but not all traffic congestion on the bridge,” Jones said. “Folks try to get on it and get off in the afternoon. Hopefully this is going to alleviate some of those issues up there.
Jones hopes to have the engineering completed on the project by the end of this year and may hold another public hearing for residents. The project may go out for bid in 2019 and possibly start construction by 2020.
“It’s bad problem out there,” he said. “It hasn’t gotten any better. I wish we had done it earlier. The money wasn’t there.”
After the Buena Vista Road project is completed, Jones said a similar design will improve the Bradley Park Drive ramp at J.R. Allen Parkway. A Smiths Station High School senior was killed in 2011 after losing control of her SUV while driving on J.R. Allen Parkway. A car merged from Bradley Park Drive causing the teen to swerve and lose control.
That ramp has been closed since 2013. Traffic headed west on Bradley Park Drive is no longer able to enter J.R. Allen from the cloverleaf.
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