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Continuous flow intersection now open in Dawson
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Dawson County Sheriff Officer Larry Busher directs traffic during the switch to the new continuous flow intersection at Ga. 400/Ga. 53 on Monday. Crews with the Georgia Department of Transportation began the switch from conventional traffic flow at 10 p.m. Monday. - photo by Nick Bowman

Peggy Swanson didn’t hold back when asked her feelings on the newly rebuilt intersection on Ga. 400 at Ga. 53 in Dawson County.

“It’s not good for here,” said the manager of Big D’s BBQ off Ga. 53. “If you want to put it in Atlanta … that’s fine.”

Swanson went on to say drivers there are more used to traffic changes “and we’re not.”

No doubt the busy intersection at Ga. 400 at Ga. 53 had a new look Tuesday, as the Georgia Department of Transportation opened Georgia’s first “continuous flow” intersection.

DOT workers began at 10 p.m. Monday making the switch, officially opening the intersection at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

And it’s a big change for most all drivers.

Ga. 400 motorists making left turns onto Ga. 53 now make left turns before the two roads cross, with separate lanes carrying them out of straight-through traffic. Staying in the designated lanes, which are signalized, they’ll be able to complete left turns.

Drivers turn right from Ga. 53 onto Ga. 400 much as they would enter an interstate, merging with traffic as they complete the turn.

Drivers will turn left from Ga. 53 onto Ga. 400 as they did before the intersection makeover.

“I still don’t understand it, but after a while, people should be able to get used to it,” said Cumming resident Josh Thomas, part of the lunchtime crowd at Big D’s. “Just adapt to the changes, I guess.”

Here’s a look from the driver’s seat traveling through the new continuous flow intersection at Ga. 53 and Ga. 400 in Dawson County:

“It’s progress,” said another diner, Nick Ditta, of Gainesville. “It works good for the people passing through, but to local businesses, there is always going to be a negative.”

Intersection work included adding a concrete median in front of Big D’s and other businesses, so drivers going westbound on Ga. 53 can’t make direct turns into those parking lots.

They must travel past the businesses, then make a left turn to head back in their direction.

The change “has hurt a lot of business around here,” Swanson said. “It has hurt ours severely.”

DOT officials, meanwhile, have lauded the new intersection as a solid option to a full-blown interchange.

The “innovated design is a great cost saver,” according to a press release last week. “The capacity of this type of intersection rivals a full interstate-style interchange. This also leaves a smaller impact to the area, as there are no ramps or overpasses constructed.”

Overpasses were being considered but were ruled out due to cost and disruption of traffic, as the work was estimated to cost $150 million or more.

The DOT unveiled the official plan for the continuous flow intersection early in 2010, and it was projected to cost about $14 million.

Drivers will still see barrels and cones around work zone areas near the intersection, but those are expected to be cleared by the middle of June.

DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said the agency has teamed up with the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office “to make sure there’s a safe transition” to the new intersection.

“Hopefully, people will continue to understand how to use it,” she said.

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