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Red light/Green light: Thoughts on Pickens traffic woes

            After three wrecks in front of Pickens High School last month – which spurred added safety precautions from school leaders – and recent progress on GDOT’s big Highway 53 project, Pickens roads are on the brain. These two specific areas are in definite need of attention, but there are other downright treacherous spots that should be addressed as well.

            First, the ongoing projects: The high school intersection is dangerous for sure, especially with a high concentration of new drivers there. Georgia Department of Transportation’s study showed 40 crashes in a four-year period. That’s an average of nearly one a month. January saw three crashes during morning drop-off times, all involving students, with two of those resulting in injuries.        We think GDOT’s proposed roundabout at PHS is a solid solution. A recent Progress poll found that most people (68 percent of the 111 respondents) agree that a roundabout is a good idea – but the seemingly innocuous traffic circle produces a visceral reaction in some people. They argue that teens (and adults) won’t have any easier a time navigating a “confusing” roundabout than they would having to yield while attempting to turn left.

            But it’s been proven time and again that roundabouts reduce the number of crashes and make the ones that do happen far less dangerous because traffic is moving slower.  GDOT’s design is a single-lane roundabout, but includes bypass and dedicated turn lanes, which will all help keep traffic flowing.

            We hope this project comes to fruition, and in the meantime we applaud school leaders for trying to find a more immediate solution. They have a deputy there in the mornings and are working with GDOT to change the traffic signal and add flashing yellow signage.

            GDOT’s big project from Highway 515 into downtown Jasper, slated to go to bid next year, is also needed. This one is less about safety than about alleviating the increasing congestion through that corridor. It calls for widening and reconfiguring the road, making it four lanes in one area and two one-way sections going into and leaving town. We’re not looking forward to the hassle of 30 months of construction – at all – but for the long term it’s good for the city.

            Outside of those, we’d like to see those dangerous Highway 515 intersections that don’t have traffic lights addressed/assessed.

            GDOT is what you might say looking at it. Particularly they are assessing the Worley Crossroads intersection which provides the entrance for a new subdivision. But they are also are looking at all the intersection there which don’t have traffic signals.

            Until they complete the study, there is no way to predict what their recommendations are but hopefully they will alleviate the dangerous situation of commuters trying to cross the fourlane.

            A former city leader said crossing that busy divided-highway felt like being a scared rabbit forced to jump into traffic, potentially traversing four lanes and a median if you need to get to the other side. It’s kind of like playing Frogger the video game, but it’s real life and you’re the frog who doesn’t want to get squished. 

            A former law enforcement official said he never shoots across all the lanes. He’ll turn right when there is no traffic signal, go the next intersection make a u-turn and then come back to cross. That shows the dangers when a former traffic patrol officer won’t cross a road.

            We know parents who won’t allow their teen drivers to use any of these intersections because of the perceived dangers.

            As one current emergency worker explained the problem on 515 is trying to judge whether that car way up the road is going 65 or 95 mph.

            Main Street/Church Street in Jasper needs attention, too. Church Street lanes are wonky and shift unexpectedly when they cross Main Street, and there’s probably no faster way to get cussed out by another driver than attempting a left turn onto Main. We’re not sure if left turns shouldn’t be nixed entirely, or if green arrows for left turns would help, but it’s a problem spot for sure.

            There are others, of course, but these are some of the key problem areas for us. What roads/intersections in Pickens do you think need attention? Let us know. Follow this link to take a survey.

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