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Howard Road fixes are under review by DOT

POSTED: August 21, 2013 11:52 p.m.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is developing an “upgrade plan” for Howard Road at Ga. 365, district spokeswoman Teri Pope said Wednesday.

The main improvements under consideration are installation of lighting at and on approaches to the intersection, rumble strips to alert motorists before they reach existing advance-warning beacons, and reflective traffic signal backplates.

Also, Pope said, the DOT is mulling “protected” left-turn arrows, which would require motorists to wait for the green arrow to turn.

“Each of these items are under review now,” she said. “Once the plan is finalized, it will go to our Atlanta Office for review and approval by the state traffic engineer.”

Pope didn’t have a timeline for those steps.

In the meantime, the Georgia State Patrol has picked up enforcement in the area.\

“The issue you have at that intersection is there is no left-turn signal,” said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Johnson of the state patrol’s Gainesville post. “... And the thing you can’t take out of any situation is human error.”

To help with safety, the GSP also left an unoccupied spare car parked at the intersection for about a month.

Motorists who travel regularly along the corridor likely figured out quickly that no one was behind the wheel, but Johnson said he believes the empty car made drivers still “tend to pay attention a little more to what they’re doing.”

Howard Road has been a lingering issue for road planners and law enforcement, resurfacing after a July 12 wreck that killed three people and injured six.

Gainesville and Hall County officials, state lawmakers, emergency responders, law enforcement and others met July 15 with the DOT at its Athens Highway offices to talk again about possible fixes.

“We’re continuing to have some accidents out there ... but there are some T-bone crashes, and you’d think the signal would address those,” DOT District Engineer Bayne Smith said at the time. “I think we’re really going to focus on what’s causing those.

“If people are obeying the signal, those shouldn’t be happening.”

The July wreck is still being investigated, with early information showing a collision between a pickup truck traveling southbound on Ga. 365 and a northbound tractor-trailer. Another vehicle ended up striking the rear of the overturned tractor-trailer.

Gainesville police Cpl. Kevin Holbrook said Wednesday he was trying to find out whether toxicology results were available.

“I’m waiting to hear back from (accident investigators),” he said.

Initial concerns over the intersection were ignited after an April 28, 2012, crash that killed a Clayton woman.

The wreck triggered a public safety campaign last year, including a push from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, to fix the crossing. That resulted in the installation of a traffic light and some other road improvements.

A traffic light is planned at some point at Ramsey Road and Ga. 365, about one mile north of Howard Road. As part of the project, the DOT also is looking at building an acceleration lane for Ramsey traffic heading south on Ga. 365.

The intersection has been the target of concerns by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Kubota Manufacturing of America Co., which sits off Ramsey and White Sulphur roads. Last year, they asked the DOT to study the busy crossing.


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