Downtown traffic

The city of Auburn’s comprehensive citywide traffic study, which consultants began working on in 2017, recommends 65 improvement projects for the next decade.

A project priority list has not yet been released; the city is still working to determine which areas will get funding first, said city Engineering Services Director Alison Frazier.

Frazier, along with representatives from Skipper Consulting and Alta Planning and Design — a company that specializes in the design and engineering of bicycle and pedestrian systems — recently presented results of the citywide traffic study to the Auburn City Council. Though the study document will not be finalized until the end of the summer, the presentation provided an overview of improvements to come.

The study recommends the city spend about $25.8 million on improvement projects in the next decade, according to the presentation.

For the study, consultants evaluated traffic flow on the city’s heavily traveled corridors and at 100 intersections, looked at crash data and examined 36 traffic signals along corridors. The areas included in the study are College Street, Donahue Drive, Gay Street, Dean Road, Moores Mill Road, Glenn Avenue, Samford Avenue, Bent Creek Road, Opelika Road, East University Drive and Shug Jordan Parkway.

Richard Caudle of Skipper Consulting said it is unusual for a city to request a traffic study of this size.

“Very few of your peer cities would actually ever undertake a study of this magnitude to look at the traffic within the corporate limits,” he told the council. “So, you’re above your peer cities, especially here in Alabama. It’s unheard of for another city to do this kind of effort.”

He also noted that the main priority of the study is to make Auburn’s roadways and intersections safer and that safety will influence which projects come first. In his presentation, Caudle identified 13 high-priority crash locations. The top three involve South College Street at Longleaf Drive, East University Drive/Shug Jordan Parkway and Donahue Drive.

Safety, along with connectivity and access, will also help determine projects for improving pedestrian walkways and multi-use paths along roads — things the consultants recognized as just as important as “moving cars.”

“In the past, these studies have always concentrated on traffic — turn lane improvements, signal improvements, access management, things like this,” Caudle said. “This is the first time we have recognized as part of the traffic study that pedestrian and bicycle provisions are just as important to the transportation system as moving cars.”

Joe Gilpen of Alta worked on that component of the traffic study, which is being developed alongside ConnectAuburn, an ongoing initiative that will create a plan for connecting greenways and bikeways within the city.

“These two efforts are being coordinated,” Gilpen said, adding that Alta has focused on re-evaluating previously planned walkways through the lens of safety, connectivity and access. Alta and the city have also been collecting input from residents through Residents can still give input there through Friday.

Some examples for improving pedestrian and bicycle connectivity include buffered bike lanes on Opelika Road and North Donahue Drive, multi-use paths along South College Street and Dean Road and traffic calming and shared lane markings in certain areas, among other things, Gilpen said.

Another result of the traffic study will be coordinated traffic signals along corridors to create a “green band” for vehicles, Caudle said.

To help traffic flow smoothly and prevent frequent stops, 36 traffic signals — about half of the signals in the city — are expected to be coordinated along College Street, Gay Street, Opelika Road, Dean Road, Bent Creek Road, Moores Mill Road, Donahue Drive and East University Drive.

“At the beginning of this particular study, I don’t believe there were any coordinated traffic signals in the city,” Caudle said. “What we mean by coordinated traffic signals are signals that are specifically programmed to provide progression, to provide a green band as you drive up and down the road.”

Already, traffic signals along Moores Mill, Dean and Opelika roads, Gay Street and North Donahue Drive have been coordinated. Coordination on College Street and University Drive is planned for this summer.

Results from the coordination along a portion of Dean Road show that average speeds of vehicles traveling in both directions has stayed higher — up to 10 miles per hour — and cars are experiencing fewer complete stops.

“It helps with things like air quality; it helps with fuel consumption,” Caudle said. “When you increase speed, you reduce travel time.”

Engineering Services Director Alison Frazier also gave a presentation to the council, showing renderings for future traffic projects, some detailing deceleration lanes or added turn lanes and others showing more transformative projects, like a proposed roundabout for Martin Luther King Drive and Shug Jordan Parkway.

View renderings of proposed projects at Frazier noted that all renderings are subject to change.

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