Retooling the road
Bad intersection has new work plan in development

PORTERDALE - A new plan is in the works for improvements at what has been called one of the worst intersections in Newton County.

Newton County Engineer Kevin Walter outlined the plan for the Ga. Highway 81/Crowell Road intersection for the Porterdale City Council at its work session Tuesday night.

Unlike the original design for the project completed by the state Department of Transportation several years ago, the new design concept calls for two traffic signals instead of one. One signal would be installed at Ga. 81 and Crowell Road, which is a four-way stop. The second signal would control traffic a few hundred feet to the southwest at the intersection of Ga. 81 and Ga. Highway 162 alternate.

Newton County and Porterdale have been working to improve the intersection for several years. The city and county had agreed to a plan under which the local governments would be responsible for rights of way acquisition and moving utilities, and the DOT would fund construction. However, the project was stalled last year after the DOT ran out of money and withdrew funding.

In December, the county approved a task order for redesign of the project by LPA Group of Columbia, S.C., under which only elements requiring corrections would be redone. Walter said Thursday there was concern about the age of the DOT's existing design and the fact that the county could find no evidence that the DOT had done a signal warrant analysis or traffic modeling.

Walter said LPA Group did both analyses and found that signals were warranted for both of the intersections. In addition, he said LPA Group is working to create the most cost-effective design that will minimize the amount of right of way needed.

Walter told the council that in order to move the project forward, the city and county will first need to get DOT on board with the revised design because DOT issues permits for traffic signals.

"Before we finalize the design, we have to ... get them to be a part of the decision," Walter said.

The city and county will then be able to approach the state for funding for construction at the intersection. Walter said it is his understanding that, although the DOT got overextended last year and stopped spending on road projects, more state dollars are available now due to federal stimulus funding.

Walter told the council he has hopes that the state will pay for 100 percent of the construction costs, with the city and county sharing the costs of moving utilities and acquiring rights of way.

"I think we have a good chance to get some or all of the money for construction," he said.

Walter said right of way acquisition could start this fall, with construction beginning in early 2010.

Once a design concept is complete, Walter said the City Council, Board of Commissioners and consultant will meet to review the design and then take it to the DOT.

Walter told the council that the intersection at Ga. 81 and Crowell Road is one of the worst intersections in the county.

He explained Thursday that intersections are graded A, B, C, D, E, or F based on the time delays needed to get through an intersection, with an A designating an intersection that flows smoothly with little delay.

Ga. 81 and Crowell Road earns a much lower grade.

"In general terms, you can characterize it as totally failing," Walter said.

Staff writer Crystal Tatum contributed to this report.

Alice Queen can be reached at alice.queen@newtoncitizen.com.