The Department of Transportation is always glad to see the public involved in the road-planning process, and pleased when people feel free to express their opinion about our transportation system in Georgia.
However, we do prefer that those expressing an opinion would contact us to get the facts prior to airing their comments to the public. Strangely, most citizens of Georgia will always remember a negative story about a government agency, but will hardly glance at the facts when they are printed in rebuttal.
In regard to The News-Times editorial concerning the need for median dividers on Interstate 20 ("DOT plans to divide wrong highway," May 4), the DOT is now in the planning phase for more than 29 miles of cable median barriers on Interstate 20 from State Route 80 in Warren County to Belair Road in Columbia County. Funding for this project was approved in 2004. The Department will mostly likely receive bids for the contract this summer.
Most projects take six to 10 years of planning and have to compete with many other projects for funding before actually being awarded to a contractor. We are fortunate that this project took less than one year to reach the point of letting.
During the past months of planning, DOT representatives have personally spoken to county officials as well as to state Rep. Ben Harbin and former state Sen. Joey Brush regarding this project. If one were inclined to research whether the Department was working on a solution, it would have taken just a phone call to see that safety improvements were on the way.
The Department of Transportation has never turned a deaf ear to the needs of the state of Georgia, especially a need to improve safety. Unfortunately, it is impossible to respond to all needs in a desirable time-frame. Additionally, our solution from an engineering view at times is not what the public wishes for an area. Case in point: the raised median on Washington Road.
The proposed project calls for a raised median on Washington Road from Cumberland Drive to Belair Road. The median is not a "wall of concrete," but a 6-inch-high concrete island between opposing directions of traffic. The raised median will include many breaks for motorists to turn safely into shopping centers or to make a U-turn.
Raised medians are suggested for roads with traffic volumes of more than 18,000 vehicles per day and high crash rates. Research indicates that traffic delays have decreased by 30 percent and traffic crashes were reduced by 55 percent on roads when a raised median was installed.In comparison, on a road with a flushed median (or two-way turn lane), crashes were reduced by only 35 percent.
The concern of business owners who feel that their business will suffer if a raised median is built is a common anxiety. However, surveys have shown that businesses with a raised median roadway stay the same or increase in revenue, and their property values go up. Motorists who know that their chances of being involved in a crash have decreased dramatically, and know that their traffic delays have decreased, are more likely to feel comfortable traveling and shopping along the road. Without the raised media, people are going to become apprehensive about shopping in the area and business will then begin to suffer.
All too often, business owners and residents (and sometimes even the local newspaper) rush to a simple conclusion when problems are far more complex. The Georgia DOT plans road improvements using engineering standards and research rather than knee-jerk emotion. Please visit the Georgia DOT Web page at www.dot.state.ga.us and look for the "Benefits of Installing Medians" link under the "News & Events" heading. We have included this on our Web site so that motorists and business owners can understand why we often advocate for raised medians, even in the face of public criticism.
The Department of Transportation works closely with local and state officials to address the concerns of our customers while providing a safe and efficient transportation system. We look forward to continuing this effort in Columbia County to provide the best service possible.
Michael L. Thomas, P.E.
DOT District Two
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