Ahead of the curve: ‘Horrific’ traffic conditions preventable

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A group presenting results of a two-year Highway 280 study gave a couple of suggestions to prevent traffic headaches from building up east of Hugh Daniel Drive &8212; build service roads and put more space between traffic lights.

Previous mistakes that led to &8220;horrific&8221; traffic conditions along stretches of Highway 280 in northern Shelby County should serve as a learning tool for development as it makes its way down the road, said Steve Ostaseski, a senior transportation planner who worked on the project.

&8220;I don&8217;t think anyone had the vision that (Highway 280) was going to grow that quickly,&8221; he said. &8220;Let&8217;s learn from our mistakes.&8221;

Representatives of the firm Gresham, Smith and Partners released the results at Chelsea City Hall Thursday as part of a project funded by Shelby County and the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham.

The study was part of a cross-jurisdictional access management plan by the county along with the cities of Chelsea, Harpersville, Hoover and Westover.

Solutions to prevent more problems along Highway 280 revolve around access management, Ostaseski said.

A typical four-lane intersection could have as many as 32 conflict points, or opportunities for a crash.

&8220;We try to eliminate those conflict points to reduce the probability of crashes,&8221; he said.

A second goal is to return Highway 280 to its intended use as a major thoroughfare and not as a local road, Ostaseski said.

Recommendations include the construction of more service roads to eliminate parcel-to-parcel traffic.

Traffic lights, which stand as close as 500 feet on stretches of Highway 280 near Valleydale Road, should be spread out at least a mile apart to help traffic flow, according to the study.

Also suggested are retail grids that back slightly off the highway to ease congestion, instead of heavy commercial development running directly along the road. That idea has already surfaced in Shelby County&8217;s comprehensive plan.

Solving an issue as complex as Highway 280, where multiple municipalities are involved along with the county and state, will require cooperation across the board, Ostaseski said.

&8220;At this point all indications are that everyone is in agreement.&8221;

By planning ahead, city and county officials can go ahead and reserve rights-of-way and look at possible parallel routes to stay ahead of the curve, he said.

&8220;It&8217;s a lot easier to do it up front than to go back and fix it,&8221; Ostaseski said