First, traffic was controlled by a stop sign. The cars began to back up. Next, a flashing red light was installed, and people waited.
On Friday, Newton County public works employees completed the installation of a traffic signal, complete with a left turn light, at the intersection of Crowell Road and State Route 81. Nearby, State Senator JaNice Van Ness, (R- District 43rd), State Representative Pam Dickerson (D-District 113), Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman, Porterdale City Manager Bob Thomson, Newton County Chair Keith Ellis and District 4 County Commissioner J. C. Henderson gathered to celebrate the completion of a project that had been in the works for over a decade.
Ground was broken at the intersection in December 2014, kicking off the work that would convert control at the intersection from a sign to a light and ease the flow of traffic. During rush hour, traffic at the stop signs could sometimes back up almost a mile on Crowell Road and State Route 81, according to Ellis.
The project was originally estimated to cost $3.9 million, to be paid for with money from the 2005 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST). The City of Porterdale contributed $300,000 of their 2005 SPLOST funds to the project. But, because county employees did much of the work, the final cost for the project was $1,824,583.
It was anticipated the lights would be installed and working within a year, but complications arose when it was discovered the intersection is a main hub for many of the utilities that serve the county and city, including water, natural gas, electricity, cable and sewer. The county, city and DOT worked with each provider to move the utilities so the intersection could be widened, allowing for left and right turn lanes, and the traffic lights and left turn signal could be installed.
Porterdale Mayor Arline Chapman said Ellis worked hard to see the project come to fruition after she had talked to him last year about the growing congestion at the stop sign. “Keith went o DOT to get the ball rolling.”
“I’m thankful I’m the one who finally got it done,” said Ellis. He said he worked with DOT and made it possible for the Newton County transportation department to do the work.
Dickerson said the light would improve the traffic flow and benefits citizens in Newton County and Porterdale.
“I’d like to congratulate Mayor Chapman and County Chair Keith Ellis for getting this project done in a timely manner,” she said.
“It is so long overdue, and I’m so pleased that it’s finally fixed,” Chapman said. “It means a lot to so many people.”
“This morning, I took a practice run and the light was green,” she said. “It was wonderful.”