Commuters from Russet Woods and others in southwest Jefferson County may soon have a smoother commute because of action the Jefferson County Commission discussed during its committee meeting today.
Commissioners talked about making improvements to Morgan Road to ease traffic flow. County officials have worked with state officials and those from the city of Bessemer to bring about the planned improvements.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said 18,600 vehicles travel on Morgan Road each day. He compared that to a similar number of drivers taking the Beach Express out of Baldwin County during peak summer months. The Morgan Road drivers are using a two-lane road, while Baldwin County drivers use four lanes and can still be backed up for miles.
“Our next step as a temporary improvement is to put a dedicated right turn lane from Parkwood Road all the way onto the northbound lane of (Interstate) 459,” Stephens said. “It will really, really help those residents in the Russet Woods, Southwood area to get onto the freeway without having to wait so long at that light.”
Plans also include re-timing traffic lights and adding new traffic lights and turn signals.
Stephens expects to present the memorandum of understanding at the Bessemer City Council meeting tonight, thus clearing the way for work to begin.
“We plan to get on with work as soon as the weather breaks, possibly this week,” Stephens said. “There is equipment on site, waiting to begin.”
“We’re going to work with the city of Bessemer to limit some access to Morgan Road during certain times to increase the traffic flow there also.”
Stephens calls it a classic situation of the population outgrowing the infrastructure. “Now,” he said, “we’re trying to catch up.”
The “catch up” effort is pressured by continued development in that area. Stephens said commissioners don’t want the lack of infrastructure to slow that development, adding that the long-term plan, likely five to six years away, is to have a dedicated four-lane highway from Interstate 459 to the Jefferson-Shelby county line.
Stephens added that the county is working with state officials to install a traffic signal at the Exit 6 ramp from northbound I-459, entering Morgan Road. He said there have been “many, many” accidents there.
On the subject of development, commissioners said infrastructure is in place for sewer lines to enhance development along Interstate 22 in northwest Jefferson County.
“We won’t let a lack of sewers keep people from coming,” he said.
Warrior Tractor is about to relocate there, Stephens said, “and we look for that to be the first of many. It’s going to be a growing area.”
Mental Health Evaluation
The commission said it will agree to continue paying $500,000 to support evaluations for people thought to have mental problems before they are jailed.
An inter-cooperative agreement between the city of Birmingham, UAB and Jefferson County will support the program, to run from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2019. The contract will be acted on at the regular commission meeting Thursday.
Stephens said it continues an existing contract that’s been “very successful.”
“People who have been identified as having a mental issue will be transported to UAB for evaluation before they’re sent to incarceration, and they will be treated appropriately,” Stephens said. “The $500,000 is a ceiling. Normally they don’t use that much. They have been very prudent with their moneys.”
Countywide cleanups are being coordinated among communities, the county transportation department and environmental services.
Commissioners also asked that more “no littering” signs be posted with the $500 fine displayed.
“Education and for people to understand that there are repercussions to littering in Jefferson County are very important to solving the problem,” Stephens said. “We have to have the citizens to take ownership and have pride in their community.”
Commissioner Joe Knight displayed new voter information cards that will be mailed. The 5×7 color cards replace the 3×5 cards that were sometimes discarded as junk mail.
The new cards will have more information to help voters be informed about voting.
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