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GDOT: Changes coming to Ga. 365 intersection
Some want stoplight to be installed where highway meets Howard Road
The intersection of Ga. 365 and Howard Road was the scene Tuesday morning of a fatal accident. There have been numerous accidents at the intersection. - photo by AARON HALE

Tuesday’s fatal crash put traffic safety concerns back in focus on what many see as a dangerous portion of Ga. 365.

These concerns are for the stretch of road just north of where Interstate 985 ends. That area is characterized by notorious speeding and hidden intersections.

Several fatal crashes in recent memory have served to highlight perceived dangers.

In March, Steven Rondal Collins, 24, of Clermont was killed after his vehicle struck a tractor trailer near the intersection of Ramsey Road.

A memorial sign for Casey Turpin, who died in a 2009 crash at the same intersection, still stands no more than 100 yards from where the battered Kia rested after Tuesday’s accident.

There have been growing concerns within the community for some sort of change, particularly at the intersection of Ga. 365 and Howard Road, where a new RaceTrac gas station has increased traffic crossing the highway. Georgia Department of Transportation responded to those concerns Tuesday, signaling new measures aimed at curbing the risk of crashes are coming.

Within minutes after Tuesday’s wreck, Rich Gallagher, CEO of the Georgia Mountains YMCA, came out to see what happened. With the J.A. Walters Family YMCA at the southwest corner of the Howard Road and Ga. 365 intersection, Gallagher has become familiar with the serious crashes in the area.

YMCA patrons are actually encouraged not to use the Ga. 365-Howard Road intersection because of its reputation.

“We are very concerned for our members, the patrons of RaceTrac and the citizens of Hall County,” Gallagher said. “I believe that this is a very dangerous intersection. There is so much happening; you have to be very conscious when crossing it.”

Gallagher and others sought to have a stop light installed at that intersection.

GDOT District 1 spokeswoman Teri Pope said there was a study conducted regarding the Howard Road intersection. However, results showed it did not meet any of the thresholds for installing a light.

When placed at intersections that don’t need them, Pope said, stoplights can actually make traffic safety worse.

For his part, Gallagher said he’s not a traffic safety expert. He just wants something done.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to make it safe,” he said. “I would like for them to take a closer look to fix the issue of the dangerous intersection.”

That, Pope said, is being done. She said RaceTrac has hired a traffic engineering consultant to study the intersection and suggest improvements.

An employee at the Howard Road RaceTrac referred questions from The Times to the corporate office. Messages to media relations staff were not immediately returned.

Two such changes are looking to be in the works.

GDOT has approved one change in lane striping, and a proposal for a flashing beacon is working its way through Atlanta, Pope said.

The striping change would occur on the east side of Howard Road leaving the gas station. Currently, there are three lanes leading to the intersection with Ga. 365. Two of those lead to the median, one leading straight to Howard Road and the other offering a left-hand turn onto Ga. 365. The third lane is for right hand turns.

“It seems like one of the biggest issues, beside the speed, is that multiple vehicles are stacking up side-by-side in the median space,” Pope said.

Pope said it’s illegal for cars to pile up in the median, but it also creates a situation where drivers are finding it difficult to see traffic going southbound on Ga. 365.

The approved change would reduce the number of lanes to two: one to cross the median and the other to turn right.

The other proposal would put flashing yellow beacon lights on either side of north- and southbound lanes of Ga. 365 before the Howard Road intersection.

The lights would put drivers on notice of the approaching road.