Hwy. 212 and Bethany Road
Could a traffic light be going in at dangerous intersection?
There may be a traffic light coming to the intersection of Highway 212 and Bethany/Butler Bridge Road in the near future.
Following a traffic study earlier this year, the district office of Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has recommended that a traffic light is warranted at the intersection.
“It appears a traffic signal could be going in,” said Kyle Collins, District Communications Coordinator (East Central Region) for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“We have collected all the raw data to be analyzed and are currently preparing a report to be sent to our Atlanta headquarters with our recommendations,” he said. “The report should be completed and submitted for approval of our recommendations by the end of next week.”
Collins said that while GDOT’s Atlanta Headquarters is the approving authority for traffic signals, Newton County needs to submit a signed Traffic Signal Application. “We are hoping to get that this week.”
Evidently, the county did submit the Traffic Signal Application. Board of Commissioners Chair Keith Ellis said, “The district office recommended an upgrade to the intersection. Now the folks in Atlanta are analyzing all the recommendations and data.
“But we haven’t heard from the state, yet,” he said.
CONCERN LED TO PETITION
Earlier this year, four residents living in the area — Melissa Griggs, who lives off Bethany Road, and Brent Morgan, Cindy Middlebrook and Tony Alexander, all residents of The Falls subdivision – began campaigning for a light at the intersection after 67-yearold Curtis Douglas Baxter was killed trying to turn left onto Georgia Highway 212 from Butler Bridge Road on Feb. 25.
It was not the first accident, or even the first fatality that had happened at that intersection. According to reports from the Newton County Sheriff ’s Office, there have been more than 20 accidents at that intersection since the beginning of this year, and those were the reports that did not include fatalities.
Accidents that involve fatalities are reported by the Georgia State Patrol, whose records reveal 10 accidents happened at that intersection in the period from Jan. 1, 2015 to March 30, 2016. Thirteen people were injured and one was killed.
Consequently, Griggs started a petition in March at change.org. [See story here: http://www.covnews.com/archives/200952/].
“This is a very dangerous intersection as Ga. Hwy. 212 has a blind hill coming from the South and vehicles are not obeying the posted traffic speed of 45 miles per hour,” the petition at change.org reads.
“The installation of this light would curb the speeding on Ga. Hwy. 212 and will allow our citizens who have to turn right or left off Bethany Road or Butler Bridge Road to make their turns safely,” it says.
Within weeks, there were over 500 signatures on the petition, which was directed at State Representative Dale Rutledge (R-District 109), a member of the Transportation Committee, and copied to Ellis.
As of this Thursday, there are 868 signatures.
Griggs said she has lived in her house on Bethany Road since 1999, and even then there was a need for a light. “It’s a blind hill and a blind curve.
“They come up over the hill coming from the Jackson Lake area and they never slow down,” she said. “The speed limit sign is closer to the intersection. The speed limit is 45 mph and they’re doing in excess of 60. There are yield signs on the right side of the Butler Bridge Road. I noticed it when I was going to church and turning left; People just pull out into traffic.”
Morgan appeared before the BOC meeting on March 1 to ask the BOC to submit a request for a traffic light at the intersection to the state. Commissions John Douglas (District 1) and Levie Maddox (District 5) as well as Ellis all communicated with GDOT about the need for a traffic light. GDOT responded by ordering a traffic study April.
Morgan said at the time he talked to the men doing the survey and they told him they had arrived at 7 a.m. and the morning traffic alone warranted a traffic light at the intersection.
PETITION BROUGHT AWARENESS
Griggs said she thought the petition and the citizens’ contacting the commissioners had helped move the request along. “I think we made a bunch of noise and people started listening.”
Morgan agreed. “I believe through the local support of our citizens, elected officials, the Covington News article and a Channel 46 [CBS] report with interviews have definitely helped raise awareness. I believe that awareness got someone's attention at GDOT.”
“We often receive citizen petitions to make intersection improvements across our district,” said Collins. “More often than not these are petitions for a traffic signal.
“Georgia DOT encourages public feedback because we can’t see everything and be everywhere at all times,” he said. “Local movements like this can raise the profile of a particular area and in this case result in our Traffic Ops studying the intersection to see what improvements could be made.”
Collins did warn that even if a petition gets a great number of signatures, it doesn’t mean a light will be erected at an intersection. “There may be other engineering treatments that are better for operations and more cost efficient.
“We still have to go through our process by conducting an additional traffic study at a given site to see whether or not the intersection meets the signal warrants under our standards,” he said.
Morgan said he was told by Ellis the traffic light was recommended, and that Commissioner Maddox had stated earlier Newton County had funds to assist with installation. However, GDOT pays for the installation of the traffic light, while the county is responsible for the electrical use.
“In the meantime,” Morgan said, “school will be starting back, which will continue the string of accidents.”
Griggs said a traffic study had been done before they widened the roads beginning in the spring of 2013. She said she talked to the foreman working on widening the lanes on Highway 212 and he told her there were plans for installing a traffic light, but those were scrapped.
The traffic study that led to the road widening, Griggs said was done in July, when schools were closed and people were away on vacation or going to work later in the day. “During the school year, Highway 212 is busy, busy, busy in the morning because Oak Hill Elementary School is just passed the intersection. People go through the intersection and turn right into the school.”
“There have been some fatalities there, some tragic accidents,” said Ellis. “We’re hoping that [a light] will eliminate future accidents, or that accidents won’t be as severe. I’m hopeful this will eliminate both the potential for driver error as well as any operational errors.”
“We should be hearing final word soon,” Ellis said.
Collins said the installation of a traffic light was pending on approval of GDOT’s Atlanta Headquarters.
“Once we get the response from our General Office leadership, we will let the locals know what will be done at this intersection. Any decisions will be made with safety and the most efficient operations in mind,” he said. “The county will be informed of our recommendations before we submit.”
They come up over the hill coming from the Jackson Lake area and they never slow down. The speed limit sign is closer to the intersection. The speed limit is 45 mph and they’re doing in excess of 60 ... I noticed it when I was going to church and turning left; People just pull out into traffic.” — Melissa Griggs, Newton County resident