Friday, August 26, 2016

TOP STORY >> Shift set for highway lanes

Leader senior staff writer

The years-old traffic nightmare in the southbound lanes of Hwy. 67/167 near Main Street in Jacksonville will not end Tuesday morning when traffic is shifted from the old lanes to two new lanes, and in fact a bottleneck may result as that traffic approaches the southbound entrance ramp from Redmond Road, Jacksonville officials warned Friday.

The southbound traffic on Hwy. 67/167 will be shifted onto the newly constructed pavement from Main Street to south of Redmond Road, according to the state Highway and Transportation Department.

“Alternating lane closures will be utilized to shift traffic starting at 9 p.m. on Monday, August 29, weather permitting,” the department said.

The orange barrels will be moved.

The southbound lanes over the old Main Street bridge were narrow, with unsafe railing structure at too tight a circumference. At least one man died after his pickup truck plunged off the overpass in recent years.

Mayor Gary Fletcher and Administration Director Jim Durham warn that commuters from the Cabot area should be prepared to slow or stop quickly as they approach the Main Street and Redmond Road overpasses.

That’s because southbound traffic on the Hwy. 67/167 entrance ramp from Redmond Road will merge onto two lanes instead of the current three lanes.

Durham says traffic may back up on both the highway and the ramp and he all but guarantees accidents.

“Be very alert coming from Cabot to Jacksonville,” Fletcher warned. “The ramp lanes run out very quickly. It’s going to be dicey.”

Durham said the speed limit in that area may be 55 miles per hour and may be as low of 45 miles per hour.

The southbound lanes won’t be open until the construction in that area is completed in 2017, and the Main Street entrance ramp south won’t open until the work is completed, according to City Engineer Jay Whisker.

Northbound lanes will be shifted during the next phase of construction. The new overpass and ramp will be about five feet taller than the original structures, allowing taller trucks to cross under and keeping the highway above Bayou Meto floodwaters.

While there will be shoulders for emergency parking when the entire project is complete, there won’t be shoulder all along the highway until completion, Whisker said.

“Drivers should exercise caution when approaching and traveling through all highway work zones,” according to a Highway Department spokesman.