Early planning is underway for a major improvement project for the Highway 82 and 18th Avenue North intersection.
Mark Holley, engineer for the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s District 1, said the department is working with the Neel-Schaffer engineering firm to design improvements to the off ramp that sends traffic into 18th Avenue’s west-bound lane. The intersection is near Chick-Fil-A.
Neel-Schaffer Vice President Kevin Stafford, who serves as city engineer, said the intersection sees so much traffic it sometimes backs up the ramp and onto the highway.
“Obviously coming around that curve at the posted speed limit if traffic is at a standstill due to the queue — that’s an extremely dangerous situation,” Stafford said. “This will also try to help the intersection flow at the bottom. They’re both kind of related — if you help traffic flow at the bottom, it’ll keep it from backing up at the top (on the highway.)”
Holley said the project is being funding through federal money for an earmark that’s being redistributed. He said the exact funding amount hasn’t been determined yet, but it should be about $1.8 million.
For the moment, he said MDOT is working with Neel-Schaffer on design work for the project and traffic analysis. Once that’s complete, Holley said, MDOT will have a better idea of project cost and timeline.
“At this point, there’s no idea that’s not on the table,” he said. “We haven’t really gotten to the point in the data to start honing in on saying this will work and this won’t.”
According to traffic data on MDOT’s website, an estimated 5,700 vehicles per day used the off ramp onto 18th Avenue in 2015. An estimated 9,700 vehicles per day traversed the portion of 18th Avenue near the intersection.
Stafford said design work will probably last through the spring. He said the interchange is the first priority, but funding may allow MDOT and the city to address other areas of need based on cost and remaining available funding.
“[MDOT] may also look at some improvements at 18th Avenue and Highway 75, and also Highway 82 at the Military Road off-ramp interchange. It’s based on how far that money will stretch.”
Holley said MDOT will have to determine how much funding is available before it knows what other priorities it can address.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.