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Crossing reopens to traffic
Project aimed at improving safety
3 Road Work pic
The new lanes of Hwy. 53 at the busy crossing of Thompson and Etowah River roads opened last week. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

A project to improve safety at a busy crossing along Hwy. 53 is nearly finished.

While crews still must install guardrails and striping, the four-way intersection at Thompson and Etowah River roads is completely accessible for motorists.

In a news release last week, DOT District Engineer Bayne Smith hailed the completion of paving work and the reopening of the lanes.

"A single lane closure will go in so the permanent striping can be done on the new asphalt in a couple of weeks," he said. "We are grateful to have the new lanes open and expect you will see a positive impact on traffic and safety in the area."

Construction on the busy intersection began in September 2012 and was initially scheduled to be complete by June 30.

At $2.7 million, the work included adding right- and left-turn lanes on Hwy. 53 and left-turn lanes on Etowah River and Thompson roads.

DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope has previously said the project will "motorists to see each other and make better driving decisions."

"The left turn lanes will get people waiting to turn left out of the through lane and improve mobility while increasing safety," she said.

A study concluded the intersection did not meet any of the minimum requirements for a traffic signal, according to Pope.

In an unrelated development, transportation officials last week announced plans to replace the bridge on Hwy. 9 over the Etowah River.

Set to begin in 2015 with an estimated construction time frame of 24 months, the project calls for relocating the existing bridge 6 feet to the west.

The new bridge will be built while traffic is reduced to one lane of the old bridge using a temporary lighted signal.

The bridge replacement was discussed during last week's county commission meeting.

Transportation officials said then that the project would require taking nearly .25 acres of Dawson County's River Park property as easement for construction and to maintain slopes and erosion controls and build driveways.

Plans also are in place to begin a major overhaul of the Ga. 400-Hwy. 53 intersection as early as fall 2014.

In a first for the state, the plan calls for a continuous flow setup designed to move left-turning vehicles out of traffic's main flow by using a series of access roads and longer left-turn lanes both east and west on Hwy. 53.

The concept also includes displaced left turn lanes on Ga. 400, which stop left-turning traffic about 750 feet before the turn onto Hwy. 53.

When the left-turn signal turns green, motorists will drive across the oncoming lanes into new lanes on the far left side of the road. Another left-turn signal then will prompt drivers to complete the left turn.

The DOT began acquiring property for the $13 million renovation about a year ago.

Construction is expected to take 18 months to complete and would be staged so as not to disrupt traffic.

Based on a recent traffic analysis, an estimated 68,000 motorists will pass through the crossing daily by 2025. That's nearly two times the current volume.

Officials have said the design will allow more traffic through the intersection, improve visibility and lower pollution by thinning congestion. It's also less expensive than other possibilities.

Among the previous options considered by the DOT were several styles of interchanges, "flyover" bridges and a roundabout.

At one point, the DOT estimated it would cost $120 million to build a full interchange.