Traffic project could begin early in 2003

Friday, May 24, 2002

JACKSON, Mo. -- Construction on proposed short-term improvements in Jackson's transportation system could begin early in 2003 once a consensus is achieved on which projects to pursue and if agreements can be reached with the Missouri Department of Transportation, says Mayor Paul Sander.

Sander emphasized that MoDOT will have to be amenable to the changes because all but one -- removing stop signs on Shawnee Boulevard at Old Cape Road -- involve state roads. MoDOT and the city would share in the cost of the work.

Wednesday, the St. Louis firm of Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier proposed a number of alterations to Jackson intersections designed to ease the flow of traffic in the city. The preliminary recommendations include the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of High and Washington streets just north of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse, signal lights at Hope and Main Streets, and an additional left-turn lane on southbound Shawnee Boulevard at East Jackson Boulevard.

Roundabouts are a relatively rare and new traffic solution in Missouri. Last year, a roundabout built at Gordonville and Silver Springs roads in Cape Girardeau received such bad reviews from motorists that the city went back and widened it. But MoDOT is in the design phase of a roundabout to be built on Highway 61 in Perryville, Mo., and recently completed a roundabout in St. Louis.

Roundabout in the works

Roundabouts can be effective, says Scott Meyer, district engineer for MoDOT. "It's a good solution where you're not necessarily wanting traffic to move fast but wanting to keep it moving," he said. "It's a better solution than a signal in some instances."

The Washington and High street (Highway 61) intersection has only three legs because of the courthouse, with stop signs on Washington.

The agency suggested a roundabout at the same location some time ago, Meyer said. "At that time the city didn't want to consider it."

Since beginning the Jackson Comprehensive Transportation Plan Study earlier this year, Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier has been conducting manual traffic counts and field inspections at different times of days.

They have yielded summaries of traffic counts.

The early focus is on short-term solutions to the city's traffic problems, but the plan also will look at making changes in the transportation system that anticipate growth trends out 20 years.

Shatto said the study of Jackson's traffic patterns turned up one unique feature. "Despite the availability of some alternative routes, there is a tendency for people -- whether local or people just going through town -- to stay on the main highways," he said.

"... We would think they might try and find a shortcut going through town. The numbers don't seem to bear that out."

Computer simulations

The traffic engineers, who have consulted on a number of projects in the area for MoDOT in the past, are using computer simulation models to predict how changing intersections will affect traffic flows. The simulations are especially good at showing engineers the effect an alteration in one intersection will have on another. "In the past we might look at one of the intersections in isolation," said Doug Shatto, the firm's vice president.

The modeling shows how the recommended signal lights with left-turn lanes at Hope and Main Streets and the roundabout at Washington and High Streets would work in tandem to improve traffic flow, especially at peak periods.

The engineering firm has made a number of recommendations for changes in MoDOT's plan to widen Highway 34/72 through town from two lanes to four lanes. Among them are:

Improving design radii to allow for U-turns at intersections.

Inclusion of additional break-in-access at Indian Springs.

Inclusion of backage road at Route PP.

Redesign of Oklahoma intersection to allow for improved truck access.

Improved pedestrian access, including a safe harbor island at Adams.

Alternative to U-turn ramp at Old Toll Road.

Provision for pedestrian underpass at Hubble Creek.

Extension of Dotty.

Turn around treatments for terminated streets.

The traffic engineers are expected to return in about two months with more concrete proposals to present at a public hearing or an open house.

sblackwell@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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