The widening of Touchdown Drive at Century Place was completed this week as planned, just in time for school to get back in session Monday after spring break.
The $20,000 project made Touchdown Drive, a short connector between Century Place and the four-lane Pearl Nix Parkway, four lanes to increase vehicle capacity and safety, officials said.
According to David Dockery, assistant director of Gainesville Public Works, the road was paved on Tuesday and details were finished up Wednesday and Thursday. He said the widening and other changes were to make it easier for motorists in the area to make right-hand turns. Previously, drivers had to wait for traffic turning left onto Pearl Nix before being able to turn, he said.
The changes "hopefully will speed the progression of traffic that is leaving the school," he said.
And there is a lot of traffic coming and going along the road each school day, according to Dee Taylor, the city’s traffic engineer. He said data from traffic counters showed that some 1,721 vehicles use Touchdown Drive between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. on a typical school day. That includes 400 to 500 vehicles leaving the area in the afternoon between 2 and 6 p.m.
"(Touchdown Drive) gets hammered hard, so we were glad we could get out there (and make the improvements)," Taylor said.
Taylor also alerted motorists who use Touchdown Drive to the change in traffic operations, which includes the addition of some intersections that are now controlled by yield signs.
Sammy Smith, a member of the Gainesville school board, said the main concern addressed in widening the street was "safety, because traffic would back up into Pearl Nix Parkway, and many folks didn’t realize it was a school zone."
Taylor said there are additional improvements planned in the area to improve safety for pedestrians. The crosswalks across Pearl Nix and Century Place will be adjusted, he said.