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Traffic could be less bleak this Black Friday on Dawsonville Highway
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Todd Devos, with AECOM as a consultant to the Georgia Department of Transportation, backs up collected traffic data at the city of Gainesville’s traffic engineering facility Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Real-time monitoring systems, which are observed at the office, are being put in place to help alleviate traffic. - photo by David Barnes

Through a couple of traffic improvements, officials hope this year’s Black Friday on Dawsonville Highway at McEver Road isn’t the train wreck for shoppers that it was last year.

One of the fixes involves monitoring traffic via live video and making traffic light adjustments as needed.

“The (traffic) volumes are what they are, and there’s just so much capacity that the roadway has,” Gainesville Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky said. “But we’re trying to maximize that roadway capacity through the use of technology.”

While the city’s efforts may improve traffic flow, another project in the area — one done earlier this fall by the Georgia Department of Transportation — was focused on motorist safety.

Through the construction of medians, drivers are no longer able to turn left out of the Kohl’s and Publix parking lots.

Motorists will now only be able to turn right into and out of the Publix-anchored Village Shoppes shopping center.

They’ll still be able to turn left into Kohl’s-anchored McEver Corners if they’re traveling north on McEver toward Dawsonville Highway, but they won’t be able to turn left out of McEver Corners.

“Gainesville Police are very worn out by responding to the amount of crashes that occur there,” DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland has said of the project.
“People are going to have to learn this traffic pattern. These are safer maneuvers. People in Georgia do not understand that (when) making left turns over four-lane intersections, every time you turn your head, you’re having to recalculate the gaps between the cars. You’re having to remake decisions over and over again.”

Rotalsky said his department is working with the DOT and the city’s police department on overall safety at the intersection.

“One of the biggest messages we want to get out is don’t block the intersection,” he said. “If it looks like you can’t get into the intersection, don’t enter the intersection. If you do that, you prevent other movements from taking place and all it does is compound the problem.”

Rotalsky urges patience on the part of motorists.

“It may take more than usual because people are in a hurry — it’s the holidays,” Rotalsky said.

City Manager Bryan Lackey has said the Dawsonville Highway area is “where we had all the complaints last year” in regard to holiday traffic.

“(There were) people stuck in some of those shopping centers, not being able to get out — at least for a long time, anyway,” Lackey said.

Several measures to improve congestion are underway.

A study that could take place in 2018 would focus on traffic flow through the heavily commercialized Dawsonville Highway-McEver intersection but also potential connections between Dawsonville Highway and McEver.

Another DOT project in development is widening Ga. 53 to six lanes, with the third lane on either side of Ga. 53 serving as either a straight-through or turn lane. The project would run from Ahaluna Drive to Shallowford Road.

Preliminary engineering could get underway in fiscal 2018, which ends June 30.

Right of way acquisition also would be involved before construction, “so, we’ve got some years here,” Strickland has said.

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