The city of Ringgold has been looking to remedy the issue of large trucks getting stuck at the underpass on U.S. Highway 41 at the Depot for years, and officials say an advanced warning system is on its way.
During Ringgold’s most recent City Council meeting in mid-dec., officials discussed the current plan being devised with the Georgia Department of Labor (GDOT) to install a more sophisticated warning system downtown to warn truckers of the height issues that exist at the underpass at Barger Bridge.
“We’ve been working with the DOT now for several years and the last couple of years in particular about this height warning system that we’re talking about now,” said City Manager Dan Wright.
Wright said the plan is to install sensors in town along Nashville Street and U.S. 41 that will warn truckers of the pending 11-foot-7-inch height limit.
“This particular system would be the infrared sensors that operate similar to a garage door system,” Wright explained. “So, if a truck is passing through town that is over 11-foot-7inches tall, it will break that infrared barrier and make signs with LED lights start flashing to try to get that driver’s attention.”
During the discussion, Wright said the detectors would be strategically placed so trucks could adjust and take the designed truck route that goes around City Hall, across the railroad tracks, and down Evitt Street, or viceversa depending on which way they’re traveling into town.
“The infrared signs detector system would be mounted on new fiberglass poles in front of the Kinard Realty office and the First Baptist Church,” Wright said. “A new LED over-height flashing sign, and also a low bridge sign would be installed on the existing utility pole at the corner of the parking lot at the First Baptist Church at Maple and Nashville streets. There’s already a pole there because their goal is to get permission from the utility company.”
The plan also includes putting truck route notifications on the existing overhead span wires that exist downtown that already house banners publicizing city events.
As for the notification additions on the south side of U.S. 41 coming from exit 345, Wright says the setup will be similar to that of Nashville Street and will likewise guide drivers to the designated truck route.
“Just south of Evitt Street on U.S. 41, there would be an LED truck ‘over height exit right,’ so if people are traveling north and they’re about to come into town, it’ll tell them to turn right there,” Wright said. “Near the Jehovah’s Witness church they (GDOT) would install a truck route sign, another blinking one. Just south of the church is where you would put the infrared detector system.”
Wright and Councilman Randall Franks both stated the project will be funded by GDOT, but that an additional request to expand the notifications to Lafayette Street could create some expense for the city if GDOT doesn’t want to include it in the plan.
“We’ve also asked for an additional phase,” Wright said. “We’ve asked for them to look at Lafayette Street because we have a lot of trucks that get confused and they get downtown and try to go under the underpass and then of course there’s a problem.”
Wright says the Lafayette Street notifications are important for those trucks that take that route instead of taking Alabama Highway all the way down to U.S. 41/Nashville Street.
“It’s my understanding that they’re (GDOT) planning on paying 100-percent of the cost,” Wright said. “If we get off system, like on Lafayette Street, there may be some cost there. We’re going to argue the fact that it’s to protect their bridge, it’s not our bridge. It’s their right-of-way, and they feel this is the best way they can address the problem.”
The council ultimately unanimously approved the new over-height system to be funded by GDOT, but also included in the motion that the Lafayette Street issue be discussed.
The city also wants to put signage up at the underpass featuring a truck with the red “can’t” or “Ghostbusters” symbol around it.
“We’re finding that a lot of the people that get caught under this are good drivers who simply don’t see or interpret some of the existing signage,” Wright said.
“These locations and drawings look good to me,” Mayor Nick Millwood added.
Ringgold officials are planning a project with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to better warn truckers about height issues at the underpass on U.S. Highway 41 at the Depot in downtown.