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Three intersections to get upgrades
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Three of Newton County’s busier intersections are going to be upgraded over the next few years as county officials continue to tackle traffic flow.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners has voted Nov. 5 to move forward with engineering for improvements to the intersections of Brown Bridge and Crowell roads, Covington Bypass and Flat Shoals roads, and state highways 81 North and 142.

The Board approved spending $82,190 of local money, a 20 percent match, to get $328,760 in federal funds to study improvements at the intersections.

Local money will come from the county’s capital fund, which has money set aside for road and transportation projects. The capital fund receives money from the county’s general fund, but hasn’t had any money added to it for years, Transportation Director Tom Garrett said.

Federal funds — disbursed by the state — will pay 80 percent of all costs, including right of way acquisition, utility relocation and construction. The total cost of all projects, from engineering through construction, is expected to be $2.62 million, with nearly $2.1 million coming from the federal government.

Brown Bridge and Crowell roads

The traffic light at this intersection will be upgraded to include left-turn arrows for all four directions, Garrett said.

Currently, only drivers turning left onto Crowell Road from Brown Bridge Road have a left-turn arrow. However, the bulk of morning traffic is making this turn to get to Interstate 20, so this left-turn lane will be extended farther back to accommodate more cars, Garrett said.

In addition, the intersection is misaligned, as Crowell road curves somewhat sharply west as it heads north. Garrett said changes will be made to the large concrete island currently in the intersection to make the left turn easier to navigate.

"Eight to 10 years ago, we signalized this intersection, and, of course, traffic has increased since then," Garrett said.

The new Newton High School opened this fall on Crowell Road, just south of the intersection.

This intersection is expected to cost a total of $580,000; no additional rights-of-way will have to be purchased for this project.

Construction is planned for fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014-June 30, 2015), county Chairman Keith Ellis said.

 Covington Bypass and Flat Shoals roads

This four-way stop already backs up, and it’s expected to get much worse when the county finally installs a signal at the infamous four-way stop of Ga. Highway 81 South and Covington Bypass/Crowell roads in Porterdale, Garrett said. More information on the long-awaited Porterdale project — residents are sure to rejoice — will be available in the coming months, Garret said.

The Porterdale project is expected to be completed sometime before July 1, 2015, and then work will begin on the Covington Bypass and Flat Shoals roads intersection.

"So many people avoid the Porterdale intersection that once that’s fixed, people will use the Bypass Road even more, which will increase stress on this other four-way stop," Garrett said.

The plan is to put in a traffic light at the Covington Bypass and Flat Shoals Road intersection and to put in left-turn lanes for all directions, Garret said; however, the traffic study will determine whether dedicated left-turn arrows are needed yet. Garrett said traffic volume will determine which directions get left-turn arrows.

Garrett told the Board the county was lucky to get funding for the intersection of two local roads, when the state has such a shortage of funds for its own road infrastructure.

Ellis said there have been two fatalities at the intersection, which caused the county to place rumble strips at the intersection in April.

"We’re excited about this (improvement)," Ellis said.

The four-way stop sees a lot of traffic naturally, but there are also schools (Middle Ridge Elementary and Indian Creek Middle) on either side of the intersection.

Total work on this intersection is expected to cost $1.1 million.

 State Highways 81 North and 142

This intersection north of Covington is a misaligned three-way that could be improved in one of multiple ways, Garrett said.

While the county believes realignment could be a solution by itself, Garrett said other options could be adding a traffic signal or even installing a roundabout.

The engineering work will determine the best solution.

The traffic numbers are pretty equally split between the number of drivers heading south who continue on Ga. 81 and those who turn on Ga. 142, Garrett said. As a result, he said, the state will require a roundabout analysis there.

"It’s kind of a unique intersection," Garrett said.

The total cost of this intersection is expected to be $940,000, and work is expected to take place in fiscal year 2016.