The actual fix
Here are the details of the change, according to Al Bowman, engineer with Michael Baker International:
• the intersection will get a traffic signal
• all four directions leading to the intersection will get dedicated left-turn lanes
• Crowell Road and Covington Bypass Road leading to the intersection will also get right-turn lanes (Ga. Highway 81 heading toward the intersection already had a dedicated right-turn lane)
• The left turn lanes will be extended further back than normal to hold more cars turning left so that traffic doesn’t back up as badly
• Further south of the intersection, the Ga. Highway 162 Connector and Ga. Highway 81 three-way intersection will get realigned
• The dedicated right and left turns for Ga. Highway 162 Connector are being extended further to hold more cars
“The worst intersection in the county is going to get fixed,” county Chairman Keith Ellis declared Wednesday in Porterdale, referring to the infamous four-way stop just south of town near Burger King.
Some residents have been waiting for 20 years to see a traffic signal placed at the intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell/Covington Bypass roads, sitting through 30-40 minutes of stop-and-go traffic day after day.
Their wait is now down to 15 months or so, as construction could be finished and a signal installed by August 2015.
While residents are skeptical after nearly a decade of planning and discussion, county and Portedale officials promised work is starting soon, most likely in two to three months.
Officials held a ceremonial handing over of a construction permit from the Georgia Department of Transportation to Newton County, which gives the county the go-ahead to begin work, though the project still has to bid out.
Newton County is committing $1.7 million of remaining 2005 SPLOST money, while Porterdale will fund the remaining $300,000 of the projected $2 million project.
All of the right-of-way has been purchased, and while the total acreage of land needed was small, the county had to purchase property from 23 different parcels, said County Manager Tom Garrett, whose been heading up the project locally for the past couple of years.
Every area resident and business owners The News spoke to said the fix is long overdue, as they said the roads gets clogged every morning during the daily commute and are even worse in the afternoon, because traffic starts backing up from the time school gets out until 6-7 p.m.
Manish Lakhani has owned the Shell gas station at the intersection for six years and he’s been hearing about a potential fix since he purchased the station. Both he and Blades Beauty Shop owner Marie Davis believe better traffic flow will equal more business.
County officials who spoke Wednesday also bluntly said they’ve avoided the intersection at times, because the wait wasn’t worth it.
Commissioner Nancy Schulz, who co-owns The Oaks Golf Course just two miles west down Crowell Road, said she’s avoided making the short trek, instead opting for a phone call to save 20 to 30 minutes.
Commissioner Lanier Sims said he’s been traveling that route for 20-plus years, from the time he used to travel to Newton High School as a student from Salem Road. He used to give himself an hour to get to school on time, noting he’s seen the traffic could back up on Ga. Highway 81 all the way south 1.3 miles to where it meets Salem Road.
“I hope once the intersection is complete that it will free people to want to come to Porterdale to want to patronize businesses in Porterdale,” Sims said. “I know we just had a coffee shop open, but if it takes 30-40 minutes to get just 4-5 miles away that deters them from coming. Hopefully this will help to spur some economic growth...”