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Traffic signal project may ease driving woes

POSTED: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

The Georgia Department of Transportation is preparing to open bids Friday on a project involving upgrades of traffic signals through Gainesville. The project will affect Jesse Jewell Parkway, including intersections with West Academy, Main and Bradford streets.

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Navigating Jesse Jewell Parkway or Browns Bridge Road can test the patience of any motorist, especially during rush hour and other busy times of the day.

Some relief might be on the way, as the Georgia Department of Transportation sets to embark on a project to replace traffic signals at 11 intersections along that road, Ga. 369.

The DOT plans to open bids on the project Friday and then could award a contract on the project, which also is geared to making that stretch of road more pedestrian friendly.

Other than having more modern signals, "we’ll have more up-to-date data, and we’ll be able to implement that data onto the street," said Dee Taylor, traffic engineer for Gainesville. "The data being the traffic counts and (an updated) database, and, in turn, (the city will) make timing adjustments."

The project will extend from McEver Road to Barn Street, said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the DOT.

Workers will install light emitting diode, or LED, signals, that motorists will be able to see easier.

"They’re much brighter, especially during low light, fog and rain," Pope said. "They also have a lot less maintenance because they have 10,000 burn hours per bulb, and there’s over 100 bulbs in each color for the traffic signal.

"With the signals that are up now, it’s literally one light bulb and when it blows, you’ve got to send somebody to go change (it)."

Visibility and safety are key to the project.

As far as traffic flow goes, the signal lights will be able to, through computerized equipment, "talk to each other," Pope said.

"You can set different timing patterns. For morning drive, it could be Pattern A. For lunch time, it could be Pattern B. For afternoon drive, it could be Pattern C. And there could even be a specific pattern for every Friday at lunch because that’s (when traffic is) worse."

Already, Taylor said, Jesse Jewell is "pretty darn near capacity and at times over capacity, and this (project) is the first step in quite a few steps that need to be taken in order to improve traffic flow through the city."

Every little bit helps.

Jill Goforth, principal of New Holland Core Knowledge Academy on Barn Street and just off Jesse Jewell, said her school gets a fair lot of cross-town traffic on Jesse Jewell.

"Some of our buses go to Myrtle Street (from New Holland), rather than go out Jesse Jewell," she said.

"We have some car traffic that comes from (Jesse Jewell). Whether it’s for our school or not, I think synchronizing the lights is going to help the flow. It’ll keep (cars) from getting backed up at each intersection."

Dane Henry, vice president for support services at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, off Jesse Jewell, said he believes that traffic flow in and out of the hospital is pretty good at the moment.

"But obviously, as we continue to grow and the area continues to grow, I think we’ll have to collectively re-evaluate how we best move our customers in and out of the area."

Intersections at Barn Street, U.S. 129, Skelton Road, Murphy Boulevard, Memorial Park Road and McEver Road already have LED signals, but they will be tied into the new interconnecting equipment, Pope said.

The DOT also plans to make sure intersections along the way will better accommodate pedestrians.

"We’ll get pedestrian heads where you have the button and you can push for the (display of the) person walking to give you a protected time to walk across the intersection," Pope said.

Also, sidewalks will have ramps for disabled pedestrians.

The DOT doesn’t have a budgeted amount for the overall project, Pope said.

"After bids are opened, we will know who (the bidder is) and what their bid is," she added.

Bids will be reviewed and in about three weeks, the DOT either will award the project to a contractor, decide more time is needed for review of bids or reject all bids and ask for new bids later.

If the project is awarded, DOT officials then will know a completion date.

In that case, "work will start in two to three months, or as weather allows after that," Pope said.



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