COVINGTON — For nearly a year JaNice Van Ness, owner of Peachtree Academy, has attempted to get a “school zone” sign on the busy highway in front of the school’s location in Newton County.
The flashing lights at the end of the zone may be in sight.
The Georgia Department of Transportation agreed earlier this month to reduce the speed limit to 45 mph at the school on Ga. Highway 142, which also is a stretch of U.S. Highway 278.
Van Ness said the problem is that the four-lane highway coming from Hazelbrand Road in the west narrows to two lanes right at the school. The current speed limit is 55 mph.
Eastbound traffic coming off the four lanes onto two at that speed has created accidents, and the situation is especially dangerous at the beginning and end of the school day.
“People are flying through there,” said Van Ness, who also serves as a Rockdale County commissioner. “It’s a busy, busy area and it’s not able to handle the reduction from four lanes to two lanes.”
As a case in point, County Commission Chairman Keith Ellis pointed out that there was a four-vehicle accident in that location last Tuesday morning.
“The spot where it narrows from four lanes into two has proven to be a dangerous spot, and we are delighted that the DOT has studied it,” he said.
Rush-hour traffic on Ga. 142 has been even more congested since the DOT began construction on the Alcovy River bridges over Interstate 20. Commuters regularly avoid long backups by exiting the freeway onto Hazelbrand Road and proceeding east on Ga. 142.
The DOT will install school zone signs, reducing the speed limit to 45 mph from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 2:25 to 3:25 p.m. That doesn’t quite cover busy hours after school when students and parents enter and exit the highway because of extracurricular activities, all during rush hour.
“That’s the most we could get. And so we’re happy with that,” Van Ness said.
Cissy McNure, a spokesperson for the DOT, said the department estimates that the school zone would be installed within two or three weeks.
As for whether flashing beacons will be installed, McNure said, “The traffic engineering study needed before installing the flashers is in Atlanta for review and approval.”
Van Ness praised Ellis and DOT’s Jimmy Smith for their work for the past year to bring about the school zone designation.