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New traffic lights start this week along busy city stretch
Brandon Soles, left, and Johnny Osborne, both with World Fiber Technologies of Alpharetta, work on the wiring Monday of the control box for a new set of traffic signals at the intersection of Jesse Jewell Parkway and Prior Street. - photo by Tom Reed

You might have been too busy to notice — traffic being what it is along Jesse Jewell Parkway and Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville. But for motorists who have wondered why two sets of traffic lights are dotting intersections along the often-congested stretch, they’ll get the answer today.

Crews have been working for more than a year on a $1.85 million Georgia Department of Transportation project updating traffic lights and pedestrian crossings along Ga. 369 between Downey Boulevard and Pearl Nix Parkway.

“The city is extremely grateful to have these upgrades going on,” said Dee Taylor, traffic engineer for Gainesville.

The project has involved installation of new signals on mast-arm poles and ensuring that pedestrian ramps comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act at each crossing.

Less noticeable is a fiber-optic system spanning the corridor that will help with traffic timing, a constant battle for Taylor’s department.

“We’ll be able to more efficiently keep track of our traffic,” Taylor said. “We’ll have cameras on each of the mast arms. These are not red-light running cameras. They are simply (there) for detection of vehicles at the intersections.

“That image is processed back into the traffic signal cabinet, then into the controller ... which processes those images as vehicle calls and then the timing is adjusted.”

Crews were scheduled to begin switching to the new lights at 9 this morning, starting at the Downey intersection and proceeding west toward Pearl Nix.

The process could be competed in three to four days and will involve removing the old lights, Taylor said.

“We’re working with the contractor diligently to make sure that all of the items are in place and (that) the transition to the new signal system is as smooth as possible,” he added. “There are always snags as you go along.”

Traffic along the road, as frequent travelers know, is a sure mess at certain times, such as rush hour, noon and Friday afternoons. And it grinds to a halt in the event of a wreck or car trouble.

Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT’s Gainesville-based District 1, said some 31,970 travel daily through the Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway intersection and 32,810 through Ga. 60/Queen City Parkway.

And though it’s not part of the project area, 26,930 vehicles go through the U.S. 129/Limestone Parkway intersection near Interstate 985.

The Ga. 369 stretch also includes one of Hall County’s busiest junctions, Jesse Jewell at E.E. Butler Parkway, which Taylor described as the “center of the traffic signal universe” in Gainesville.

“From a true traffic perspective, that’s where all the timing starts and you chase everything out from there,” he said.

The hope is for improved traffic flow, but the project also called for better safety, with the installation of LED signals that motorists will be able to see more easily.

“They’re much brighter, especially during low light, fog and rain,” Pope said. “They also have a lot less maintenance. ... 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).”

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