Motorists who travel Washington Road in Evans have noticed the difference.
The center turn lane added late last year into the widened section of Washington Road from Town Centre Drive to Ronald Reagan Drive is keeping traffic flowing smoothly, reducing accidents and making business owners happier than a previously proposed center median.
Average daily traffic counts are the same or higher than before the center lane was added, and growth is expected to continue, said Kevin Leer, Columbia County Construction and Maintenance Division director. But it is still too soon for any reliable traffic study.
"We have not analyzed any accident data as of yet," Leer said. "It is a little early for us to be able to take a meaningful period of time to compare it against a previous time.
"I certainly know people are happy about it," Leer said. "We got a lot of complaints before and we don't get any now. And we have a lot of folks calling in saying how good a job it was and they appreciate us doing something about the congestion there and being able to turn left and right."
Officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation, who paved the new section that opened for use during the Thanksgiving holidays, and the Columbia County Sheriff's Office agree that adding the center lane led to improved traffic flow.
Though it is too early to draw conclusions, said Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris, it appears the lane has increased the capacity of the through-lanes- enabling traffic to move smoothly and reducing vehicle collisions on the less than one-mile stretch that normally saw daily accidents.
"What we mean when we say 'reduced vehicle conflicts' is that the potential for rear-end left turn and sideswipe accidents is greatly reduced with this center turn lane," Morris said. "It is early to draw conclusions, but we have seen a positive impact."
Crews are still working on details, including painting stripes and turn-lane arrows, said Scott Stephens, GDOT District 2 Area 4 engineer.
The original plan to handle the ever-increasing traffic along busy Washington Road was to construct a concrete median to Halali Farm Road, which many business owners disagreed with. John Tudor, owner of Tudors Dry Cleaners at 4346 Washington Road expressed his opinion on his sign. Now, the sign reads, "Thank you Columbia Co. and DOT."
Leer said two more projects that will be sent out for bids as soon as the designs are completed include a center turn lane from Ronald Reagan Drive to the Wal-Mart Supercenter, and another from the Goodwill Emporium to Club Car.
"We are really working hard on the rest of that road to get those center turn lanes in," Leer said. "We have designs starting on several sections and hopefully within a year or 1 1/2 years, we'll be doing some more work."
But the median plan is still an option because the turn lane was built as a first step on a GDOT program project, Stephens said.
"Time is just going to see how this new project is going to develop, if there are going to be any changes or if the median is going to be left in or pulled out," Stephens said. "That is still undecided. This is just a temporary fix."
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