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Atlanta Highways new traffic light gets turned on next week
Travelers along Atlanta Highway encounter a new traffic signal at the intersection of Hilton Drive. The signal, currently being tested, is scheduled to be turned on next week.

State and local officials say a new signal that will be turned on next week at Hilton Drive and Atlanta Highway will improve traffic at the intersection.

"It’ll be a big help," said Bradley Clark, Gainesville’s lead traffic technician. "We’ve been working on this project for a long time, and it met all the (requirements)."

Clark said the traffic signal is set to be turned on Tuesday; the city is waiting for striping to be completed by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Teri Pope, communications director for the Department of Transportation’s Northeast Georgia district, said the light would be activated midday, around 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.

Pope said the signal currently is in test mode.

Though drivers will only see the signal flashing during the next few days, Pope said the computer in the signal is going through various scenarios and testing the length of time each light may stay green or red. The DOT is checking it each day.

The average cost for installing a traffic signal is $100,000 for equipment and improvements, such as turn lanes, Pope said.

Getting that new signal installed is a lengthy process.

Pope explained that first, the municipality in which the intersection is located must request a signal "because they are responsible for paying the power bill for that signal."

Then, a study must be conducted, which can take six to 12 months, Pope said.

The federally standardized study takes a look at various factors, including traffic, growth, and number, cause and type of crashes.

Clark said Gainesville also conducted a traffic study at the intersection.

"Signals are very important traffic control devices, but studies also can tell us instead of a signal you just need a right-turn lane or you need an all-way stop at this intersection," Pope explained.

Pope urged caution around the intersection.

"There are actually on average five wrecks a year the first year a traffic signal is up, five rear end crashes, because it didn’t used to be there," she said.

If the weather is bad on Tuesday, Pope said the light will be turned on Wednesday instead.

Clark said the city has requested a new traffic signal at Terrace Street and Jesse Jewell Parkway, where the Frances Meadows Center will be located. That installation is a ways off, because the study isn’t complete, Clark said. The city also is looking at upgrading some signals on E.E. Butler Parkway at Interstate 985 on the northbound and southbound ramps, he said.