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Ga. 81/Crowell intersection to get signal in 2012
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Nearly two decades after Porterdale officials first began looking for a traffic solution, the intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell Road will finally get a stoplight in 2012.

County Engineer Tom Garrett said the county recently submitted plans to the state to improve both the Ga. 81 and Crowell Road intersection, a four-way stop, and the Ga. 81 and Ga. Highway 162 Connector intersection, a three-way stop.

The improvements will be made using remaining 2005 SPLOST money, if the Newton County Board of Commissioners approve the project.

The two intersections are around 500 feet apart and both frequently back up during rush hours.

"This intersection is critical to our county now," said county Chairman Kathy Morgan Thursday. "There are a large number of people every day travelling to get to work and school."

The plans call for a stoplight at Crowell Road, but not at the Ga. 162 Connector. The county eventually wants a stoplight at the Ga. 162 intersection but doesn't have enough money. However, the intersection will be improved in such a way to allow a stoplight to be easily installed later, Garrett said Wednesday.

In addition to a stoplight, every street leading up to the Ga. 81 and Crowell Road intersection will get dedicated left-turn lanes.

There will also be dedicated right turn lanes onto Ga. 81 for those travelling north and south on Crowell Road/Covington ByPass Road. Signalized pedestrian crosswalks will also be added at both intersections in all directions.

"It will be like night and day," said Garrett.

A solution has been delayed because the state never dedicated money to the project, but Porterdale and

Newton County finally reached an agreement to fund everything locally. The Georgia Department of Transportation originally approved a permit for a signal back in 2000. If the county had waited for state or federal funding, the project could have been delayed another decade, said Morgan.

No final price has been given, but Morgan said she expected the project to cost more than $3 million, including construction, moving utilities and purchasing right-of-way to widen the roads. The county will pay its portion out of remaining 2005 SPLOST money, while Porterdale has committed to contribute $300,000.

Purchasing right-of-way also held up the improvements, because some of the land around the intersection is historic. Garrett said by using only local money, the county is able to avoid some of the onerous requirements for dealing with historic land when state when federal money is involved.

The state will review the plans, and the county then hopes to begin purchasing right of way in the fall and begin construction on the intersection improvements in the spring of 2012.

According to previously conducted daily traffic counts, 9,460 drivers travel Ga. 81, 8,847 travel Crowell Road and 5,770 travel the Ga. 162 Connector.

The design was completed by LPA Group, an independent engineering consulting firm, and replaced an original design prepared by the state.