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Locals, state discuss Hazelbrand median
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The cries of business owners along Hazelbrand Road have been heard, and it's possible the Georgia Department of Transportation will adjust its plans for the concrete median on U.S. Highway 278.

Business owners, city officials and state transportation officials met Friday morning at Covington City Hall to discuss locals' displeasure for a planned median on U.S. 278.

Business owners on Hazelbrand Road, and the near vicinity, say their businesses have already been negatively affected by construction, but they're more concerned by a median which would block left turns into and out of Hazelbrand.

Jimmy Smith, a district engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, said there is a chance that the median could be left open at Hazelbrand, to allow divers traveling east on U.S. 278 to turn left on Hazelbrand.

He said there is absolutely no way to allow left turns out of Hazelbrand. There will be double left turn lanes onto Ga. 142 for drivers traveling east on U.S. 278, which would cause too much congestion for a left turn coming out of Hazelbrand.

Business owners said the left turn in was the most important. In addition, Covington Police Capt. Craig Treadwell said a left turn would help keep down response times to Walmart and businesses and residents on Hazelbrand.

Smith said he will bring up the issue to the department's chief engineer, Gerald Ross. After the meeting, Smith said it would take a couple of weeks to set up a meeting with Ross, and, if a change is approved, a partial redesign will have to be completed.

The medians are part of the widening project at the intersection of Ga. Highway 142 and U.S. 278.

City Manager Steve Horton said the city will also write a letter to Smith formally requesting that a left turn option onto Hazelbrand remain available. Sen. Rick Jeffares also expressed support for the business owners.
Jeff Benton, who owns Benton's Welding Supplies, said the left turn would be helpful to his business, which has been located on Hazelbrand Road since 1946.

In related news, the state met with city and Newton County to discuss a future widening project at the intersection of Ga. 142 and Alcovy Road. City officials are concerned that placing medians there will negatively affect industries by, again, disallowing left turns and thereby limiting access.

Horton said he felt the meeting went well and that the state seemed receptive. Future meetings are planned; the project does not have a set date at this time.

Finally, the meeting members briefly discussed the intersection of Floyd Street and U.S. 278. A signal will not be installed at the intersection, but a dedicated left turn lane will be created.