Details of a planned Continuous Flow Lane project at State Routes 400 and 53 were shared with members and guests at a recent chamber of commerce luncheon.
The first of its kind in the state, the project, referred to as a CFI, has raised a lot of questions, even as it was downgraded from its original plans, which included an overpass and a price tag of nearly $136 million.
“The original plans would have destroyed business at that intersection,” said Robert Murphy, engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation. “The FWHA (Federal Highway Administration) approached us about trying this new innovative design, and we felt it would be a huge economic benefit and reduce the taxpayers’ burden.”
The owner of Big D’s BBQ, located at the corner of SR 400 and 53, isn’t convinced.
“Despite what DOT says, I believe this is going to decimate most of the businesses on this corner within the first four years,” Darin Muenchow said. “I think we should all be worried about how this is going to affect our businesses and well-being.”
County Commission Chair Mike Berg sees things differently.
“It is far less intrusive to businesses and citizens than what GDOT had originally proposed,” he said.
The price tag for the new CFI project is $12 million.
Christie Haynes is president of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce.
“We have requested that all businesses relay their input, questions, and concerns to us so that we can work with the county and GDOT to ensure that their projects have the best possible impact on our community and businesses,” Haynes said.
Included in the plan are five new stoplights: one at the main entrance to Kroger on SR 53, two near the entrance to Kroger on SR 400 -- one southbound for drivers wanting to turn left onto SR 53, and one northbound for drivers turning right off SR 53 onto 400. Two more on SR 400 -- one southbound for drivers making a right off SR 53 onto 400, and one northbound for drivers turning left onto 53 off 400.
The left-turn lane from northbound 400 onto 53, for example, is pulled back 780 feet with a new stoplight. The current left turn signal arrow on 400 will be eliminated.
Instead, the existing signal at the intersection will direct traffic flow only north and south.
“The reason for this project is there’s a need to adequately accommodate future capacity at the intersection,” Murphy said. “It reduces conflict (crash) points, provides a better line of sight, and helps reduce emissions since drivers are sitting at the stoplight for less time.”
GDOT traffic studies counted 38,350 vehicles along SR 400 daily. A 20-year projection shows an increase to 62,800 per day. On SR 53, 20,000 per day are estimated currently with projections to 32,650.
“If we do nothing, the intersection in 20 years would receive a failing grade of ‘F’”, Murphy said. “So, not only will it improve the current level of service, we know in 20 years, there will be less congestion.”
Dawson’s CFI is modeled after one in Baton Rouge, La. There are also CFI’s being used successfully in Maryland, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, Texas and Utah.
GDOT will advertise for project contractors in October. It expects to award its contracts in November and start construction in January 2015.
The project is expected to take 12 to 18 months. It will be built under traffic with no detours.
“I’d be lying if I said there isn’t going to be congestion during construction because there will be,” Murphy said.
Other GDOT projects in Dawson County include:
--A new bridge on Highway 136 crossing the Etowah River. Construction is estimated to begin near the completion of the CFI. There will be no construction until May 2016, according to Berg. The bridge will be closed during construction, and a detour route is planned. The bridge will have an increased weight capacity to handle large tractor-trailers.
--A new bridge on SR 9 crossing the Etowah River. Construction is scheduled to begin in first quarter 2015 and will take 18 to 24 months. Advertising for bids go out in November with contracts being awarded in late December.
--Two GDOT roundabouts proposed for Dawson County that have not been designed: one at the intersection of highways 53 and 183, and a second at Highway 9 and Dawson Forest Road.