Friday, August 19, 2011

19 AUG 11: Rig-Go-Round Rigmarole

Which streets are the busiest in Columbus? Now you can know -- as the city government has posted a "traffic count map," with all sorts of numbers showing daily vehicle counts throughout town. It shows Veterans Parkway near Columbus Park Crossing barely has more traffic than Manchester Expressway at Peachtree Mall -- so Cinnabon may be in the right location after all.

One way the city hopes to keep traffic moving is by constructing roundabouts. But the latest of those projects admittedly has me baffled. It's in a section of Columbus where you wouldn't expect traffic jams to be an issue - unless a tractor-trailer breaks down while backing into a parking lot.

Preliminary construction work began this week for a roundabout at Cargo Drive and Transport Road. That intersection is near Macon Road, near an entrance to the Corporate Ridge Industrial Park - and far from the daily line of cars on Whittlesey Road, which many drivers wish would become more like a runaway conga.

(City planning documents actually refer to one of these streets as Transportation Road. As if only one road in Columbus is meant for that purpose?!)

Some drivers turn from Macon Road to Transport Road to Cargo Drive, as a shortcut to Schatulga Road. And as we all know, people want to get to the Muscogee County Prison and city landfill as fast as possible....

But that path is as simple as making two right turns -- so you wouldn't think a roundabout would be needed at Transport Road and Cargo Drive for that. But this is an industrial park, so perhaps the city wants to make sure big rigs don't make sweeping turns which block both lanes of traffic. A "wide right" can be as annoying in driving as it is in a football game.

Another factor in this project is the presence of Fire Station #12 on Cargo Drive near Transport Road. Fire trucks have to make at least one left turn to respond to calls in the Crystal Valley area. But do they need a roundabout, when they're already equipped with loud sirens?

That city traffic count map shows Macon Road handles 7,260 vehicles per day near Transport Road. That computes to 302.5 vehicles per hour, or about one every 12 seconds. Is that enough traffic to justify building a roundabout? Or are Columbus city planners expecting hordes of people to drive to the Mediacom office on that corner to pay monthly bills?

The Transport-Cargo roundabout has been on the city planning department's drawing board for at least two years. But I couldn't find a good explanation Thursday night of why it was put there. Based on my travels through that intersection, traffic backups seldom seem to occur -- and there are NO bawdy nightclubs to encourage any.

Of course, there's one other factor which comes to mind in this discussion. Several influential Columbus companies have offices in the Corporate Ridge Industrial Park. There's Aflac, NCR, Kysor Warren, TSYS - and even Swift Spinning Mills, which had to be very imaginative to keep the giant millstones out of sight.

The Transport-Cargo roundabout project was supposed to begin construction at the start of this year. But it started seven months late, and will take an estimated four to six months to finish -- so there's an outside chance of an ice storm allowing for speed skating sessions there next winter.

Now that a construction project is going round and round in your head, let's throw in some Thursday news for fun....

+ Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce confirmed to the Ledger-Enquirer state investigators are reviewing civil cases handled by Judge Douglas Pullen. They apparently include the hotel-motel tax fight involving travel websites -- so I'm not sure how Pullen will be able to rent a car for that "vacation time" he's mentioned.

+ City officials announced Columbus will host the 2013 Georgia Recreation and Park Association conference. So who will be put in charge of preparing the PowerPoint tribute to Tony Adams?

+ Former mayoral candidate Zeph Baker joined other ministers in urging city action to prevent crime in the Carver Heights neighborhood. Baker now has about seven zip codes to go, to fulfill one of his big campaign points from last year.

+ Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced a plan to crack down on "sweepstakes parlors," where people play online games for cash prizes. Deal considers it illegal gambling -- so he can expect a resume sometime today from "Commander" John Tyson of Mobile, complete with photos of police lines outside VictoryLand.

+ Shaw High School held an assembly for first-year students, in which they signed a pledge to stay in school and graduate in 2015. The way our economy is heading, a HOPE scholarship could be the only way any of them can afford to go to college.

+ Auburn University football coach Gene Chizik named Barrett Trotter his starting quarterback. This seems like a move to keep last year's game plan -- because Cam Newton trotted down the field several times to score.

+ Instant Message to the Muscular Dystrophy Association: With all due respect - whose "kids" are they now? If you're really dumping Jerry Lewis, is someone else adopting those children? Are they orphans? Or is the telethon going to turn into a localized version of the Christian Children's Fund?

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Which place is safest: Columbus, Phenix City -- or a city where guns are banned? Also your thoughts about fees....

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