Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TOP STORY >>Lights could ease traffic

Leader staff writer

Cabot residents trying to get home from Little Rock during the afternoon rush must deal with wait times of 15 minutes or more on the Hwy. 67/167 shoulders and off- ramp, but traffic signals that are supposed to be installed within two weeks could shorten that delay.

Admittedly that is the same information this newspaper reported at the end of April, but Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said this week that he is confident it really will happen this time and soon.

A snafu in the paperwork was the main reason for the holdup, he said. But the Highway Department marked the location for the poles last week and unless the project hits a snag such as cables being buried where the poles are supposed to be set, then the signals should be in place soon.

The plan is to install two signals, one to stop the traffic on Hwy. 5 and one to move traffic off the ramp. Instead of sitting and waiting for a break in the Hwy. 5 traffic, 20 or 30 motorists will be exiting the off-ramp at one time, he said.

Williams said the project should have cost about $110,000, but the Highway Department has given its blessings on used equipment and wooden poles, and the cost will actually be only about $14,000.

“In the transportation world, a week is a month and 12 weeks is a year,” the mayor said.

But he added that everything is coming together and relief is in sight for the 17,000 or so motorists who pass through the Hwy. 5 interchange daily.

The mayor has also asked the state for a traffic signal at the intersection of Hwy. 5 and South Rockwood, the new road to Wal-Mart which was completed this spring. From the time the road opened, residents have complained that left turns onto Hwy. 5 are almost impossible, but Williams said the Highway Department must conduct a traffic study there before a signal will be considered.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll have a light down there,” he said during a recent city council meeting.

In addition to evening rush hour, traffic congestion is also a problem during the morning and afternoon when parents are dropping off and picking up children at school. The city’s attempts to alleviate that problem worked at two schools where changes were made but failed at the third school.

Police Chief Jackie Davis reported early last week that traffic moved smoothly at Southside Elementary. Cabot Public Works Director Jerrel Maxwell, who watched the flow at Middle School North, said there was no backup on Kerr Station Road.

But at Northside Elementary, where city officials hoped to stack cars on East Mountain Springs Road to keep them off Locust, parents have been told to go back to the way they used to travel at least until the city and school district have built a loading area on the campus. Maxwell said this week that East Mountain Springs Road isn’t wide enough to have cars stopped on the shoulder while waiting to get on campus.

The school district worked with the city to build a new parking lot for about 40 employees, which took them out of the mix during rush hour.

The district also has approved building a loading area for 100 cars, with the school district paying for the materials and the city providing the labor and equipment, he said. But so far, the city has not seen the district’s plan for the work.