Lockett seeks to remove or lower Calhoun Expressway

 

Augusta Commission member Bill Lockett is reviving a push to explore removing or lowering all or part of John C. Calhoun Expressway.

The three-mile state route, which whisks commuters from Washington Road through Harrisburg onto Greene Street at 12th Street, has “stymied economic development in the community” and “impeded development of potential high-producing parcels of land,” Lockett said as he requested to present the item for study to the commission Tuesday.

Lockett said he had learned of other U.S. cities securing federal funding to demolish their freeways when he attended conventions in other cities.

San Francisco, Boston, Portland, Ore., and Chattanooga, Tenn., have removed or downgraded one or more of their freeways, but altering one of Augusta’s commuter arteries couldn’t be undertaken without substantial study and state and federal involvement, city officials said.

“That’s one of the main corridors into the city,” Engineering Director Abie Ladson said. “You’re going to increase the traffic on River Watch.”

Daily traffic counts are about 25,000 vehicles each for Calhoun and River Watch, according to Steve Cassell, the interim deputy administrator and the city’s traffic engineer.

Lockett isn’t the first to suggest removing all or part of the 40-year-old Calhoun Expressway to improve livability in the areas it intersects.

Removing the newest portion of Calhoun – the elevated ramp below 15th Street – was a recommen­dation of the 2009 Westobou Vision Plan, a master plan developed for downtown and downtown North Augusta, and was reiterated in 2010’s Augusta Sustainable Development Agenda, a master plan for all of Richmond County.

The plans’ recommendations weren’t a part of discussions going into development of the project list for the 2012 Transportation Investment Act, which included instead about $8 million to refurbish Calhoun’s barrier walls, lighting and signs.

The agenda item is No. 38 for the commission’s Tuesday meeting, which begins at 2 p.m.

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