COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Merging onto J.R. Allen Parkway in Columbus has always been a little tricky. For the more than 75,000 drivers who navigate this merger every day, the move just got trickier because of new merge lights designed to control the flow of traffic on the road.
The lights are in a test phase right now. That’s why the Georgia Department of Transportation is urging motorists to use caution and be alert when entering the busy road from the ramps.
“This is something new to the area,” said Jesse D. Abercrombie, the GDOT Area 2 Manager. “All I can say to the people out there, be patient, watch the signage, watch the red lights when they come up. And just do what it’s showing to be done.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation has placed nine traffic meters – basically lights – that will regulate the flow of traffic onto the second busiest roadway in Columbus.
The ramp meters on J.R. Allen are on both the east and west-bound lanes of the highway at the 2nd Avenue, River Road and Bradley Park Ramps. They’re also on the east-bound ramps of Moon Road and Blackmon Road and the west-bound ramp of Schomburg Road.
They will only be used during high-traffic times and during crashes that slow or halt traffic flow.
“All the lights are active,” Abercrombie said. “All the equipment is active. The cameras are active, and the sensors are active and what it’s doing is collecting data.”
Censors along J.R. Allen, which is also known as U.S. 80 and State Route 22 from the Alabama line to Flat Rock Road, will control the meters.
“When the traffic count gets up on 80/22 the lights will come on on the ramps and meter the traffic, slow the traffic down on the ramps to allow them to get out on the main line in a safer manner,” Abercrombie said.
The trickiest part of this trick may be at Second Avenue going east. Drivers must merge from two to one lane. Then stop if the signal prompts them. Then start from a stop and accelerate to 65 miles per hour to get into the flow of traffic.
“We will watch it and see what happens with it, but it’s designed to do just what I have said,” Abercrombie said. “To allow traffic to merge out on 80/22 in an easier form.”
This project was scheduled to be completed a year ago but has been delayed by the pandemic.