State project to improve intersections on Jackson, University Traffic signals to get upgrade

The Oxford Eagle By Lucy Schultze
March 03, 2004

Traffic on Oxford streets between highways 314 and 334 will be flowing more smoothly next year, thanks to a planned intersection upgrade by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

City engineers were surprised to hear a few weeks ago of MDOT's plans to fund and oversee the project, which will cost an estimated $600,000 and take about 18 months to complete.

Bob Mabry, assistant state traffic engineer, said portions of Jackson Avenue, 9th Street and University Avenue are part of a "state designated route" that acts as a continuation of Highway 314 (Old Sardis Road). While the city maintains the streets, he said, MDOT is responsible for the traffic signals.

"We systematically go through and try to upgrade all the signals on our system to help move traffic through in a more efficient manner," Mabry said.

The upcoming project will replace wire-hung stoplights with iron poles and coordinate the timing on lights, making them more responsive to traffic. The project will also add handicap ramps to sidewalks.

Among the intersections included in the plan is the three-way intersection at Van Buren Avenue and 9th Street. A new left turn lane on 9th Street will accommodate drivers turning toward the Square in front of St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

City staff are asking MDOT and Neel-Schaffer engineers to carefully consider their plans to eliminate the stoplight at University Avenue and South 8th Street and to rework the intersections at Eastgate Shopping Center (Big Star) and Old Town Shopping Center (old Kroger).

Out of concerns that two stoplights in a row between the two shopping centers are causing traffic to back up on Highway 7, MDOT is planning to eliminate the easternmost of the two stoplights. The plan would also change both the entrances and exits at the two centers from one-way to two-way.

At three intersections - Jackson Avenue at College Hill Road, University Avenue at Highway 7, and Four Corners - wide-angle cameras will be installed as part of MDOT's Intelligent Transportation System (ITS).
The cameras will allow MDOT to monitor the timing on the traffic signals from its Jackson headquarters, and could also give the Oxford Police Department a new tool for controlling traffic and catching speeders.
Mabry, who works with ITS for the highway department, said live images of the intersections will be shown online at www.mstraffic.com, like those already being broadcast from Jackson and the Gulf Coast. The cameras will be linked by fiber optic cable.

The new traffic signals will also be equipped with technology that allows fire trucks, police cars and ambulances to change the light and clear their lane by pushing a button as they approach an intersection.
The project is slated to begin in November. Meanwhile, crews are at work expanding the final section of West Jackson Avenue, between Oxford Mall and Heritage Drive.

Bart Robinson, assistant city engineer, said it's still too early to give a firm estimate on when the Jackson Avenue project might be done. He expects it to take about a year, with work impeding traffic for at least eight months.

- Lucy Schultze can be reached at lucyschultze@oxfordeagle.com

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