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Safety work set on Union Church Road
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Plans are moving forward to improve safety on a short but treacherous stretch of Union Church Road in South Hall County.

Right-of-way acquisition is set to take place this fiscal year on the work, which involves improvements at a culvert off Deaton Creek.

The project, estimated to cost $1 million, calls for widening shoulders to install a guardrail on one side of the culvert, said Teri Pope, the DOT’s district spokeswoman.

Also planned is the installation of “rumble strips,” or bumps in the pavement that help alert motorists if they are too close to the edge of pavement.

And a “high-friction surface course will be applied in five areas of sharp horizontal curves to provide better traction on the roadway,” Pope said. “The road will be restriped with thermoplastic striping and additional signs.”

Thermoplastic striping is a highly reflective, durable paving marking that’s resistant to cracking from freeze-and-thaw cycles.

It’s “easier to see in low light or bad weather,” Pope said.

“The primary purpose of the project is to reduce crash frequency and severity throughout the corridor, based on a thorough review of the crash history along the corridor,” she said.

One of its most tragic moments occurred in January 2005.

Mitchell A. Collins, 18, of Flowery Branch was driving a pickup truck that veered off Union Church and overturned into the creek. He was killed, along with a passenger, Brandon C. Holmes, 17, of Alpharetta, according to news reports at the time.

A third teen, Ashley Nicole Derose, 14, suffered injuries that required her to be transferred to the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta hospital that treats patients with spinal-cord injuries.

Derose was a freshman at Flowery Branch High School at the time, and the other two were former students.

Jody Woodall, a civil engineer with Hall County, couldn’t say whether improvements were made to Union Church after the accident, but Pope did note “the culvert has already been extended on the opposite side (of where work is planned) and guardrail was added.”

Otherwise, the latest project began in 2012 and “I do not remember it being linked to one event or crash,” she said.

“Union Church work is classified as a safety improvement project, funded from safety money that cannot be used on other types of projects,” Pope said.

Hall County will buy right of way, estimated to cost $130,000, for the work, she said.

Construction is slated to take place in fiscal 2016, which begins next July 1.

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