Tudor's Cleaners shows its opposition to a Washington Road median between Belair Road and Cumberland Drive.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Adding a median to Washington Road might help traffic, but many Columbia Countians seem to think it will hurt their wallet.
Last December, the Augusta Regional Transportation Study approved $750,000 for preliminary engineering on a project to widen Washington Road and add a median from Belair Road to Cumberland Drive near Windmill Plantation in Evans.
Many local businesses' opinions of the proposed median are less than favorable.
"I think this will hurt a lot of businesses on Washington Road," said Debra Ellis, manager of the Evans Kroger on Washington Road. "This will block access to a lot of people's businesses. I don't think many people will want to drive past a place they're trying to get to and then turn around and come back."
Current plans are to erect a raised 20-foot wide concrete median on Washington Road from Belair Road to Ronald Reagan Drive with openings for turning approximately 660 feet apart, according to David Griffith, district pre-construction engineer. A depressed 40-foot wide grass median will be built from Ronald Reagan to Cumberland drives, where Washington Road turns from a four-lane into a two-lane highway.
Funds for preliminary engineering have been approved. Right-of-way funding will be available in fiscal year 2004 and construction funds are expected to be available in fiscal year 2006.
More than 20 automobile accidents occurred in 2002 on the stretch of Washington Road where the median will be built. The purpose of the median is to lower the accident rate by improving traffic flow.
"I agree that something needs to be done to improve traffic safety," said Joey Barksdale, owner of Barksdale's Menswear at 4432 Washington Road. "The last thing I want is to have a bad accident in front of my business, but I don't think it will take a median to do that. I'd prefer to see a middle lane be added to Washington Road."
"I think that's the answer," added Pat Becton, owner of the property occupied by Barksdale's. "For us, having a median may not be quite as bad, because we're at least close to a red light. But for other businesses, limiting the public's access to their business could really hurt them."
Griffith said that a two-way center turn lane will be constructed in the short term, but that won't be good enough in the long term.
"We base transportation improvement recommendations on projected traffic volumes," said Griffith. "As the traffic volume increases it will become nearly impossible to make a left turn into businesses. If the median is constructed it will provide channelized turning movements to provide a safer environment."
But Betty Lewis, co-owner of Greenbrier Nursery and Gifts at 4749 Washington Road, believes that not only will the median hurt her business, it has the potential to make traffic on Washington Road worse.
"It can already be a nightmare trying to turn left on Washington Road. I think adding a median will make it even harder," she said. "I think we just need a (left-turn) lane."
Griffith said that business owners and the general population will have an opportunity to voice their concerns at a public meeting that will be held on the issue sometime in the near future. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.
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