Family calls for safer interchange - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Family calls for safer interchange

Albany - Last week, a Lee County man was killed as he tried to merge on the by-pass. The ramp doesn't allow much distance for drivers to get on and off. The Department of Transportation is planning to reconstruct the ramp, but it will be at least three years before that projects starts.

Close calls happen all too often at the Jefferson Street ramp off the Liberty Expressway in Albany. "If I can, I try to avoid it." Kimberly Watson realized just how dangerous the ramp is last week when a close family friend, Jerry Caldwell, was killed as he tried to merge onto the by-pass.

His Mercedes hit a concrete wall and ricocheted into an oncoming tractor trailer. "He was very close to his family and a very hard worker," said Watson. "He was always about helping other people. You just don't find them like that anymore."

Now, Watson says she and the Caldwell family hope the Department of Transportation will make the area safer. "I think at least they can get a caution light just before that intersection to warn travelers that they're coming onto a dangerous intersection. Just something to warn other travelers, not familiar with the area, that it's a dangerous place to be."

The DOT is working on plans to reconstruct the ramp, making it safer from drivers. "Now we're looking at it at the request of the City. It's in the design stage now to change that ramp."

But construction isn't set to begin until at least 2008 because costly and lengthy environmental and traffic tests must be done before construction can begin.

This is a busy area. Jefferson Street is the exit to downtown Albany, the Riverfront Park, Flint Riverquarium, and Phoebe Putney Hospital. That's a lot of traffic the DOT didn't expect when the ramp was built decades ago.

The new ramp design will keep traffic flowing, but unfortunately the changes didn't come soon enough for Jerry Caldwell - a husband, father of two girls, and dear friend. "It doesn't really help what's already happened, but I think it's something that needs to be addressed," said Watson. The DOT also plans to reconstruct the Clark Avenue and Moultrie Road ramps, which are just as dangerous.

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