VALDOSTA -- If the city's engineering department is successful in getting the Council to approve its plans, both the traffic issues around Valdosta State University and increasing congestion through the city would be solved.
City Engineer Von Shipman and his staff gave a presentation to the Valdosta City Council at Tuesday's work session to explain the plan and how it would be implemented. City Manager Larry Hanson said the presentation was an informal one and the Council will have to hold public hearings before voting to implement the plan.
According to Shipman, the first phase would encompass making traffic and lane changes around the Valdosta State University campus. President Ron Zaccari has seen the plan, and according to Shipman, is in agreement with it as a means of reducing traffic and pedestrian concerns.
"We know that change brings controversy and this will cause some concerns, but the projected growth of VSU is staggering and we can either wait or plan now," said Shipman.
Citing numerous traffic count studies as well as accident data, Shipman said the city's goal is to create an orderly traffic flow around the university. In order to do so, the engineering staff is proposing to one-way Oak Street from Baytree to Moore in a northward direction. In keeping with the future one-waying of Patterson Street running south by the campus, traffic would flow in a clockwise direction around VSU.
Shipman said additional signal lights would be installed at Georgia and at Azalea where it meets Baytree. The signal at Georgia and Patterson would be relocated to College and Patterson, and Brookwood would be signalized, giving pedestrians several options for crossing Patterson while the flow of traffic is stopped.
"We would provide ample crossing locations for pedestrians. And then if you wanted to enforce the no jaywalking ordinance, you could do it at that point and VSU police could enforce it."
Once the phase around VSU is completed, Shipman said Phase Two, the one-waying of Ashley and Patterson, could then be implemented. Ashley would be one-way northward out of the city and Patterson would be one-way southward into the city. "If we did the one-ways first, it would create a mess around VSU."
Shipman said the implementation of the turn lanes in the late 1990s "has been successful to a point. We have now exceeded our capacity to move traffic in a northbound fashion and you are starting to see a lot more congestion during peak hours."
Accidents declined following the changes, particularly the rear-end collisions caused by cars turning, but Shipman said they've recently seen an increase in accidents. He estimates the one-way pairs will reduce accidents by 15 percent the first year alone.
"As traffic counts grow, we are reaching a critical point where something has to be done."
The one-waying would be taken from downtown to Woodrow Wilson, and some construction would have to be done. Roosevelt and Pendleton would be realigned to meet at a light, and Five Points would also need improvements.
As Ashley and Patterson are both state routes, they are owned and maintained by the state Department of Transportation. Shipman said he has already obtained their blessing for the project.
The side streets would have longer lights to allow traffic more time to flow between the two main arteries.
Councilman David Sumner asked, "What if we didn't implement this plan? What would happen?"
Shipman replied that now, more traffic is moving through residential neighborhoods and residents are complaining, and he said this issue would only increase as the time to get from one point to another on Ashley and Patterson lengthens.
"Doing nothing is an option, but in my professional opinion, in two or three years, you're going to have major problems," said Shipman.
Hanson stated that residents are already upset in several areas over the increase in traffic, and businesses may begin to avoid the city if they perceive it as having too much congestion.
Shipman stated there is grave concern on the part of the city and VSU over the pedestrian traffic on Patterson and said he hoped the Council would act before a tragic accident occurs.
Hanson stated that the issue would be taken up formally at a future Council meeting, but gave no indication of when that might be.
Shipman said the ideal time line for the projects would be to take care of VSU by the fall semester and then to begin the one-way pairs after the first of the year, when traffic counts fall following the Christmas shopping season.
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