NEWBORN - Newborn residents will see some changes to the downtown district in the new year that should improve safety and provide pedestrian access, according to one council member.
A new caution light and pedestrian crosswalks have recently been installed downtown at the expense of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
"The old caution light was outdated. People did not respond to that caution light - they didn't even know it was there, as a matter of fact," said Councilwoman Suzanne Bean.
Bean initially requested that the DOT install a stoplight at the center of downtown, but an engineering study indicated there was not enough traffic to warrant that. The DOT did agree to update the light, which now has multiple indicator boxes to make it more visible for motorists, Bean said.
The DOT also paid for installation of pedestrian crosswalks on Ga. Highway 142 and North and South Johnson streets.
Bean said there is increasing pedestrian traffic downtown since a service outlet of the Newton County Library opened at Town Hall.
"We have a lot of programs, and we had no means of children being able to access the area," Bean said. "If we invite them to come, we must provide a safe environment for them to access (the library)."
To further improve safety, the speed limit downtown is being lowered to 35 mph.
"There are multiple speed limits, and its very confusing for motorists. If you go in one direction, it says 35 and if you're going in the opposite direction it says 45," Bean said, adding that a 55 mph sign is being moved farther out into the unincorporated county.
The DOT is also adding chevron markings on Ga. Highway 142 in an effort to reduce speed.
The markings are typically made with reflective paint and give drivers a visual indicator of their speed. Newborn will be the first area of Newton County to employ the still-experimental method of speed reduction.
Bean has been working with the DOT for two years to get these improvements and said seeing them finally come to fruition has been the perfect holiday present.
"In 2006, I took this tiger by the tail, and I had the people of Newborn tell me that the DOT would never help Newborn. It has not been easy, but Newborn is finding out that the DOT is listening and paying attention," she said.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.