With just a few minor tweaks remaining, work on one part of the project to improve traffic flow near the heart of Columbus’ retail corridor will be completed while the other part is expected to be finished by summer’s end, said Mississippi Department of Transportation project engineer Michael Miller.
“There’s not much left to do on the 18th Avenue part,” Miller said. “Just a little bit of tweaking, I guess you could call it. The (traffic) signal contractor still has a few signs to put up and we need to get the signals adjusted a little bit. Then, we’ll do the permanent striping. It shouldn’t take long.”
Turn lanes off the exit ramps from Highway 82 onto 18th Avenue should prevent traffic backing up onto the highway. The westbound 18th Avenue exit will have two right-hand turn lanes. Two traffic signals have been added, one on either side of Highway 82, to improve traffic flow along 18th Avenue.
“The big problem was congestion on the exit ramp off Highway 82,” Miller said. “We feel like the two lanes heading toward Fifth Street will really help with that. Most everybody, when they come off Highway 82, turns right at Fifth Street. That causes some back-up. Now, with another right-turn lane, people who want to go on past Fifth Street can use the second lane to go around the people turning right at Fifth Street.”
The traffic signal east of Highway 82 allows motorists turning left onto Highway 82 better access.
“That was a problem, too,” Miller said. “The area has grown so much that traffic was really backing up there because they have to cross traffic. The signal will help with that.”
A mile east, work continues on the Highway 82-Military Road project, which includes a pair of semi roundabouts.
It’s a much larger project, Miller said.
“The problem on Military Road was different than at 18th Avenue, which is why we had to plan a different system,” Miller said. “The problem at Military wasn’t traffic backing up onto Highway 82, but people having a hard time accessing Military Road. They had to stop and wait for a break in traffic. With the roundabouts people can keep moving. They won’t have to stop and wait.”
The project is still in Phase 2 of five phases, but Miller said the remaining work should move quickly.
“There’s still some construction in Phase 3, but not a lot,” he said. “The rest of the work will be finishing what’s left of construction, milling, paving and permanent striping. I feel pretty comfortable saying the Military Road part will be finished by the end of the summer.”
Miller said the project is estimated to cost $5.8 million. There are no local funds for the work. The work is funded by state and federal highway funds.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.