The Alabama Department of Transportation revealed its $15 million improvement plan for U.S. Highway 280 on Monday, Nov. 19 in a public hearing at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center. There, area residents studied proposed changes to 26 intersections between Hollywood Blvd. and Doug Baker Blvd. and provided commentary to ALDOT Division 3 engineers.
Several of those attending offered insightful pleas and suggestions to project designers in a forum. But in the room where the public was invited to view the plans, the choice of words was more severe.
“Deathtrap,” some said, referring to the intersection of Highway 280 and Cherokee Road,
At that site, ALDOT proposes to remove the existing traffic signal and eliminate direct travel across 280. Doing so will require drivers turning from 280 East onto Cherokee Road to make the left turn without the safety of a light.
In addition, drivers attempting to travel east on U.S. 280 from Cherokee Road North will need to first go west on the highway, requiring a U-turn.
Mountain Brook Police Chief Ted Cook told ALDOT engineers he had concerns about removing the light, as well as changes to other intersections that would force U-turns at intersection without signals, on elevations or in curves.
During the hearing, ALDOT consultant Darrell Skipper of Skipper Consulting Inc. in Birmingham briefly explained the proposed plan to an audience of more than 100. He said the proposal was designed to work within limited resources, be implemented quickly and present minimal impedance to the thousands of commuters who use the road.
“The concepts developed use proven tools to make changes within the rights-of-way, maintain access to all properties down 280, improve traffic flow and increase safety.”
The proposal’s main objective is to increase the time traffic signals are green for 280 travelers. It does so by increasing turn capacity at nine intersections, adding three areas where one direction of traffic does not stop, removing two signals and relocating another.
The two removed signals – one from the intersection at Cherokee Road and the other from in front of the Kovac Center and Hampton Inn – were the most troubling to attendees at the hearing. Engineers heard from both Homewood City Council President Bruce Limbaugh and Mountain Brook Police Chief Ted Cook about their displeasure with the proposal.
Limbaugh suggested the light remain but be programmed to operate only during high volume, as forcing traffic to U-turn using Hollywood Blvd. could impact the city’s plans to add a walking bridge over U.S. 280.
Skipper said the proposal could increase the average speed increase on 280 by four to five miles per hour, which would lead to a 20 percent increase in fuel efficiency for commuters. He added that work would be performed during non-peak hours and no lane closures would be required during the project’s implementation.
The project could tentatively be let for bidding by April 2013 and construction could begin in June. The projected completion date is November 2013.