Editor’s note: One year ago, several Dothan commissioners and Mayor Mike Schmitz met with strategic planner Lyle Sumek to determine policy priorities for 2012. Seven top priorities were identified at the conclusion of the meetings. This week, the Dothan Eagle explores each of the priorities and looks back on the progress made in 2012.
Part 6: Advocate for further Circle improvements
Progress made: Funds said to be obligated for second phase of Circle improvements
Wiregrass motorists breezed up and down US 231 North above the Ross Clark Circle in the summer of 2011 after completion of the first phase of a three-phase plan to alleviate traffic on and around Ross Clark Circle.
However, motorists hoping for a seamless transition to Phase 2 are still waiting, 18 months later.
Dothan commissioners and Mayor Mike Schmitz identified improvements to Ross Clark Circle as a top priority for 2012. Meetings in Montgomery that involved transportation officials as well as Houston County Commission Chairman Mark Culver and State Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan, appear to have yielded some results.
In November, Dothan officials were told funds have been obligated for the second phase of Circle improvements, although it could be a long time before construction begins.
The second phase of the project calls for additional lanes on Ross Clark Circle from US 231N to Bauman Drive. The third phase will continue the addition of lanes down to US 231 South.
Because engineering must be done, utilities moved and right of way obtained, it is not known when construction will begin. It could be as late as 2015, but no one is sure.
An executive order from President Barack Obama in 2012 released funds which had been designated for languishing highway projects. Around $40 million had been set aside for the I-10 Connector. Those funds were made available for “shovel-ready” projects which must be let before the end of the year.
In effect, the release of the money set aside for the I-10 Connector puts the connector on the backburner even more, but could lead to further Circle improvements.
Phase 1 improvements alleviated regular backups due to increased traffic flow caused by growth in the area as well as the construction of the Dothan Pavilion retail center.
Circle improvements have been discussed for more than 20 years. The first study on potential improvements on Ross Clark Circle was conducted in 1989. Since then, a handful of different designs have been proposed, with parties eventually agreeing on the design implemented on US 231 North, which uses the six-lane structure with controlled turns in the median.
About 35,000 cars travel the Ross Clark Circle per day near the intersection of West Main Street. Traffic peaks on Fridays during spring break season, with as many as 40,000 cars traveling the area per day.