Thu, 04 Nov 2010 17:56:28 GMT —
Anyone driving on I-27, especially during high volume traffic, can attest to some of the dangers involved with cars entering and exiting certain ramps, mainly from the Georgia interchange north into downtown.
While there may be plenty of problems with many of the on and off ramps, there aren't any easy solutions.
Back in 2006, TxDOT presented a value engineering study to the City of Amarillo, the study had solutions for fixing the problem, but the city didn't want to sign off on the project for a few reasons.
First, lets get a little background on the interstates here in Amarillo. Paul Braun with TxDot, said the freeways both I-27 and I-40 were built in the 1960's and 70's, under different engineering standards. At that time, there was a lot less traffic, vehicles were smaller, and the speed limit was 55 mph, it's safe to say things have changed. The city didn't want to lose access to neighborhoods in the area, so a lot of ramps were built, short and close together, partly because that's the way the city wanted it, and that's what traffic dictated. However, Braun admits that's not the case today.
"We would never build a freeway like that (I-27) today."
Now to the plan presented to the city in 2006. At that time TxDOT presented a plan to the city offering solutions to some of the problems at many of the on and off ramps along I-27.
"The city rejected the plan because again some neighborhoods would lose access to freeways and lose their access to other neighborhoods. And the city would lose access to its truck garage on I-27," said Braun.
The study also included closing down the on-ramp from 26th south of the I-40 on-ramps.
"We did this study, and wanted to close down the 26th street on ramp, but the city refused it," said Braun.
We asked Amarillo City Engineer, Taylor Witherow about that he said, "26th ought to be closed but it does limit access." He went on to say the city did reject the plan, accessibility.
"That's correct. The problem is getting trucks to and from the transfer station...it would extend their trip they have to make, so public works was dead set against it."
We asked Braun in a perfect world how would TxDOT fix the 26th and I-40 interchange?
"Get rid of the entrance at 26th. That was part of the value engineering study that we did. It was also part of the study that was rejected by the city, they want that on-ramp so that their trucks can get access to where they need to go. So, we just couldn't come up with a consensus with the city on what to do with that particular intersection."
But at this time this is all really a moot point, TxDOT doesn't have the funding to correct the problem, as there is no money available to take on new projects.
"Are the ramps ideal? Absolutely not. Can we do anything about it right now? No, we can't," said Braun.
So what's the answer for now?
Well, Braun says that TxDOT has launched a campaign called "Move Left Amarillo," in an effort to get motorists to move over and allow easy access onto the freeway.
Amarillo police and TxDOT both admit the interstate isn't driver friendly, but it can be made easier if drivers are courteous and move over.
"Be out of that right lane until you have to exit , " said APD Cpl. Jerry Neufeld.
"W hat that does is allows the right lane to be used for getting on and off the freeway , " said Braun.
Even so, the freeway north of Georgia to downtown seems to have a higher number of accidents.
"Go back to September, you have 8 (accidents) in the month of September, just between Georgia and the interchange , " said Neufeld.
And so it's driver beware until a new solution can or ever will be reached.
We're scheduled to talk to Senator Kel Seliger Friday and ask him about the disparity between high population-area budgets and highway projects compared to the Texas Panhandle.
How many times have you had a near car crash experience while trying to get on or off I-27? Its a problem we think every driver in the city has had. Everyone has a story to tell about how their close encounter.
But why haven't the ramps been fixed? We spoke with Paul Braun of TxDOT to get those answers. Braun gives a little back ground on the way the interstate was designed, saying " we would never build a freeway like that (I-27) today."
He also explains the changes that have happened over the years, and why the ramps were placed where they are. Plus hear from a city official and find out why the city rejected a proposal that could have fixed the interstate headache. Tune in tonight on ProNews 7 at 5, 6, and 10 to find out more.
Do you have a story to tell of a "near crash experience"? Leave us your story below.