A Texas Department of Public Safety official gave the Athens City Council a preview, Monday, of a reconfiguration of Business U.S. 175 in Athens, also known as East Corsicana Street. TxDOT plans call for changing the four lanes to two through lanes and a continuous center turn lane. "This center turn area will give a clean turn lane refuge area for left turns," said Eric Fisher, TxDOT Tyler District Design Engineer. Fisher showed the council a map of the wrecks that have occurred on that section of U.S. 175. Most occurred where there are crossing streets where traffic has to yield for left or right turns. "A lot of the collisions, there, if you look at the data are rear end collisions or side-swipes," Fisher said. The center turn lane creates a refuge for the left turn vehicles. It also provides a buffer to give drivers a place to go to avoid a head-on collision. A hidden benefit is it gives a lane to aid emergency vehicles passing through the corridor. "There have been some bad accidents at Wofford and 175," Mayor Monte Montgomery said. "The whole corridor over there has just been bad." The three lane road will cover the area from the intersection with Business State Highway 19 at the square to where U.S. 175 divides into four lanes with a median, east of town. The preliminary plans are for a 14 foot wide center lane and through lanes of 11 to 12 feet. That would allow for two to three feet between the curb and gutter. The narrow lanes would cause drivers to adjust their speed inside the city limit. "With narrow lanes, people tend to slow down," Fisher said. "With wider lanes, they naturally tend to speed up." As part of the project, TxDOT is expecting to upgrade traffic signals. "We're looking at new arms, new heads and new controller panels," Fisher said. Former Chief of Police Buddy Hill had gathered much of the information TxDOT used in studying the corridor, Montgomery said. "I really appreciate TxDOT looking into this and taking action," he said.
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