Public information meeting outlines detour, bridge work
State transportation officials are holding a public information open house Thursday to discuss the proposed detour necessary to rebuild the Hwy. 136 bridge over the Etowah River.
The open house is scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. at the Dawson County school board's professional development center, 30 Main St. in Dawsonville.
DOT engineers will be available to discuss the proposed project and detour details. There will be no formal presentation.
Bayne Smith, district engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, said in a statement that the purpose of the open house is to present the project and detour route.
"We want you to know the status of the project and the detours that will occur during construction," he said.
Built in 1965, the existing bridge does not meet current design standards. The bridge is 196 feet long, 26 feet wide and lacks shoulders.
The new bridge will be 240 feet long and 40 feet wide, with 12-foot wide lanes and 8-foot wide shoulders.
Shoulders allow a safe place to move a vehicle out of the road if needed, according to transportation officials.
The detour will allow construction to move much faster and cost much less than if traffic continued to use the bridge while a parallel structure was built.
Proposed 10.8-mile long detour, which will use only state routes, is expected to be in place for about nine months.
After the meeting, project displays will be available at the DOT District Office at 2505 Athens Highway in Gainesville.
Work is expected to begin this week on reshaping the roads around Dawsonville's historic courthouse into a true roundabout.
The change is intended to improve the flow of traffic through the area and increase safety, according to Georgia Department of Transportation officials.
In a statement, DOT District Engineer Bayne Smith said "roundabouts can dramatically improve safety when compared to traditional four-way intersections."
"In fact, a study of 23 intersections converted to roundabouts showed a decrease in total crashes by 39 percent, a decrease in injury crashes of 76 percent and a dramatic 89 percent decrease in fatal crashes," he said.
The project will take about two days to complete, though delays should be expected as striping occurs.
Motorists are encouraged to avoid the area between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. this week.
"Once the roundabout is operational, I think you will see a vast improvement in the traffic flow in the area. A roundabout is simple to navigate, just be cautious and do what the signs and pavement markings tell you to do," Smith said.
Transportation officials say roundabouts improve safety by slowing motorists at yield markers as they enter the flow of traffic.
Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan hailed the state's plan to restructure the crossings.
"It will slow down traffic and give the people driving through time to see what we have here in Dawsonville," he said.
Restructuring the roundabout is one of the first steps in the city's downtown revitalization plan.
"We're in the process now of putting out bids on landscape architecture," Grogan said. "We'll be reviewing those and holding interviews this week. Once we make a decision, we'll put bids out for the work and then we'll have to figure out how to pay for it."
Restructuring the roundabout will allow the city to install additional sidewalks, according to the mayor.
"As it is now, cars are going so fast through town on [Hwy.] 53 that you can't cross the road. Drivers will have to yield to enter the roundabout, so traffic will be slowed down," he said.
The first sets of crosswalks are set for Hwy. 53 near the Scotty Dog Café.
"More will be added as we go along," Grogan said.