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Hwy. 20/212 intersection complete
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One of Newton County’s most congested intersections finally has stoplights, and they seem to be helping the traffic flow immensely.

The intersection of Ga. highways 212 and 20 and Brown Bridge Road was considered by many residents to be the county’s worst intersection. It’s an oddly shaped five-point intersection whose roads are heavily traveled and for years the only traffic control was a four-way stop.

District 2 Commissioner Earnest Simmons said the intersection affects nearly 80 percent of his constituents. County Engineer Kevin Walter said the intersection is so busy because it’s a major thoroughfare for residents driving between Henry, Newton and Rockdale counties.

"There were always long lines there. Cars were lined up 20 to 40 deep during rush hour," Walter said.

The rapid growth in the western part of the county accounted for the traffic problems. Walter said resident William Hull has lived at the intersection for much of his long life, and Hull told Walter that he remembered when it was a surprise to see five cars travel that road in a single day.

Two stop lights were installed earlier this year and have been running since Dec. 4. Walter said the improvement has been noticeable and so far residents have not complained.

Because the intersection of Ga. highways 212 and 20 and Brown Bridge Road and another intersection between 212 and 20 further north are so close together, the timing of the lights can be an issue. However, Walter said so far the timing is working out well, likely because of the $25,000 worth of computer modeling the county paid for to study the proposed changes.

The county also added turn lanes and moved the second intersection 100 feet to the north to create more separation, and to make the northern intersection perfectly perpendicular.

According to the Department of Transportation’s grade scale, the intersection went from an "F," the lowest grade, to a "B-minus."

For years the DOT has been planning to do a major reconstruction, by moving sections of Ga. Highway 20 and Brown Bridge Road southeast, to relocate where they meet Ga. Highway 212. However, that project has been moved back numerous times, and in 2004 the county decided it would enact the temporary solution described above.

The project cost about $981,000, with the county paying around $500,000 of that. The DOT’s major reconstruction has been rescheduled to sometime after 2013, and Walter said it will probably be 10 years before the project gets funded by the state. Walter said the historic Zion Baptist Church and other historic properties around that intersection make it more difficult to move roads.

He said at first the DOT didn’t want to be involved in the county’s temporary solution, but with the project being delayed so many times, the decision to make these improvements has proven vital. They won’t keep up with increased traffic needs down the road, but they’ll suffice for the next decade or so.