Traffic trouble in Oxford is nothing new, but the city and the Mississippi Department of Transportation are now working to make traffic flow a little easier at the ramp intersections of MS Highway 6 and Old Taylor Road. They’ll soon be installing roundabouts on Old Taylor, less than a mile from a similar project on South Lamar Boulevard, which cost more than $1 million dollars and opened in the summer of 2007.
According to MDOT, converting the intersections to roundabouts on South Lamar improved traffic flow by reducing the average traffic delay by 24 percent, idling time by 77 percent and fuel wastage by 56 percent. Total user cost savings from reductions in travel time, fuel wastage and crash costs combined is $806,018 annually.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety reports the intersection is much safer, too. For example, there were 49 crashes in the five years prior to the roundabout installation on South Lamar. In the five years since workers completed the construction, only 29 crashes occurred.
Ole Miss soccer coach and Oxford resident Billy Chadwick says it’s about time to make a change on Old Taylor, too.
“I was shocked it took us so long to get roundabouts,” said Chadwick.
Some students agree.
“Old Taylor stays just as crowded as campus does. Traffic cuts time. Someone needs to do something about it,” said Feleshia Cary, sophomore at Ole Miss.
With Old Taylor Road such a direct route for student commuters, University of Mississippi Chief of Staff Andy Mullins says he’s heard the student concerns.
”There have been chronic complaints over the past few years that at specific times of the day, when people are not able to make a left hand turn onto Old Taylor Road. So cars were backing way up, in all directions. And so came the proposal from the Mississippi Department of Transportation.”
So why have years passed without the city of Oxford giving the project a green light?
City officials say that two other projects have been in the works for even longer – the deadly intersection of Jackson Avenue and Highway 6 and a road connecting West Oxford Loop with Old Sardis Road – which needed to come first, according to an article from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.
“We think the order of priority is the intersection for safety, the north road and then the roundabouts,” said Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson.
Another delay in the plans to construct roundabouts on Old Taylor road was the cost of a federal requirement to add a pedestrian bridge to allow access for pedestrians under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Even with MDOT footing some of the bill, Mayor Patterson said that the bridge would still cost the city between $200,000 and $300,000. Patterson also said that it seems logical that the University of Mississippi would help pay for the project, given that Old Taylor road is a major route for student commuters.
“We need the roundabouts, but it benefits [the University] directly,” said Patterson.
Now, Oxford has won a $499,915 earmark for the roundabout project and MDOT is providing the remainder of the approximately $2 million cost, but there may still be some bumps in the road.
Both Patterson and Mullins understand how problematic this project could become if the project takes longer than expected to complete. Mullins says that fans should be prepared for this to potentially cut into the 2013 football season.
“Any change or interference to the traffic flow can present a huge problem for game day,” said Mullins, “and it’s simply because the infrastructure is not designed to handle 65 to 80 thousand people coming into this community.”
Mullins went on to say that students and fans must be patient for the next few months as this project develops.
“The fans are going to have to understand that this is a small town and a small university, and a lot of our fans have been spoiled over the years about not having to walk very far,” said Mullins. “But they’ll just have to adjust as the University grows.” –– Anna Ellinburg and Sid Williams, Broadcast Journalism Majors, Meek School of Journalism and New Media
View an animated view of traffic flow around the soon-to-be constructed roundabouts on Old Taylor Road.
Linda Spargo, who lives on South Lamar, says she’s not all that worried.
“I think they’ll plan for it like they did on South Lamar. It was very well planned so that you still have to go down these major streets but they will make sure to accommodate us during football weekends.”
Commuters and fans wanting to get into campus from Highway 6 will be temporarily required to take an access road that will go behind the old Whirlpool plant and tie in with Coliseum Drive. The mayor said that the project is expected to take approximately a year to complete and you can expect to see construction begin on Old Taylor road as early as October.