Residents who have to commute through the cluster of traffic lights at the Almon Road exit where Crowell Road, Interstate 20 and the I-20 Access Road intersect know how frustrating and, often, dangerous the area can be.
Plans were approved to alleviate congestion on the southern side of the exit through restructuring the lights and flow of traffic, an initial planning stage that Newton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Keith Ellis said will make the intersection safer.
Although the board’s Sept. 16 approval is an “extremely early” planning stage, Ellis said two traffic circles that are similar to clover leafs will be constructed to divide traffic, and some traffic lights will be taken away. With the new plan, which will create more space between lights, drivers will not have to go through the intersection unless they are getting onto the interstate or crossing to Almon Road.
The decision came after several months of meetings with the state Department of Transportation, Ellis said. The vote approves “some of the initial work,” surveying and planning studies for environmental impact.
Federal funding became available for the Crowell Road/I-20 projects, as well as three others, as long as the county provides 20 percent of the total amount for a full return. If Newton County provides $2 million, the DOT will fund $10 million for the projects.
“Over the next three years we would hope to have all those projects under way and be getting federal funding,” Ellis said.
The other projects included are two bridges on Brown Bridge Road – over Yellow River and Snapping Shoals Creek – and a corridor study to determine how to alleviate “areas of concern for choke points” and how to correct those problems.
One concern to both board members and residents has been how to widen Brown Bridge, but that would cost $25 million to $30 million and is financially out of the question.
“Applications can be done between now and November and then be turned into the DOT,” Ellis said. “By doing these studies we can find less expensive ways to increase the capacity to flow traffic.”
County funding will come from SPLOST and not property taxes, he said.
“It’s anyone who uses that road,” Commissioner Nancy Shulz said, “it’s anyone who gets off of that road.”