Changes to Dawson County's busiest intersection could begin as early as fall 2014, a state transportation official told a local gathering last week.
During the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon Thursday, Georgia Department of Transportation project manager Robert Murphy outlined the plan to reshape Ga. 400 and Hwy. 53.
In a first for the state, the plan calls for a continuous flow intersection 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 DOT began acquiring property for the $13 million renovation last fall.
"Most of the right-of-way we already own. We are in the right-of-way acquisition now," said Murphy, adding that the department is in the final design process with plans for review in August. "That would give us another six months to fine tune the project."
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.
Hwy. 53 would essentially "continue to operate like it does now," Murphy said.
The project will not displace any businesses along the busy corridor, a concept Murphy said engineers were adamant about maintaining.
"It's crucial that you have access to the businesses," he said.
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 previous design ideas.
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.
"I think the DOT needs to do more speaking engagements like this in your communities," Murphy said. "We don't want to design it and not take your concerns into consideration."