The Douglas County Commission recently authorized its transportation department to begin preliminary engineering plans designed to lessen the effect of heavy freight traffic congestion along a 4.4-mile stretch of Thornton Road in Douglas County.
Freight traffic congestion is one of the central causes of traffic backups in the area, said county Transportation Director Randy Hulsey.
“Studies indicate that heavy truck traffic between I-20 and the Whitaker Intermodal Terminal along Garrett Road accounts for about 14 percent of traffic on the Thornton Road corridor itself,” he said.
Hulsey said he also believes the freight traffic problem for motorists is twofold.
“Not only is the freight traffic heavy by volume but the tractor-trailer trucks are so high that they obscure traffic signal devices from the view of motorists backed up behind the trucks,” he said.
Among the more visible traffic improvements being planned involves modifications to highway medians.
“Our plan is to extend the left turn lanes at Bankhead Highway, Maxham Road and Skyview Drive, which experience a high truck volume,” Hulsey said. “Extension of these left turn lanes would allow more capacity in these lanes.”
Other improvements planned include truck rollover warning systems at the intersection of Thornton Road and Garrett Road. This will be used primarily for freight traffic departing the Whitaker Intermodal Terminal area, Hulsey said.
However, he said he could not give specifics on how the warning system will operate.
There will also be signal system communication upgrades to provide fiber optic lines from Bankhead Highway to Garrett Road, designed to aid traffic flow, Hulsey said.
“We are also including in the improvements the installation of overhead signage for navigation to I-20 as well as nearside signal heads on the right side of the intersection,” he said. “This is designed to improve visibility of the traffic signals which had previously been hidden from motorists by the truck traffic.”
In addition, plans call for the installation of closed-circuit cameras at I-20, Maxham Road and Bankhead Highway for traffic monitoring around trouble spots.
The collective cost of the two-phase project will be $1.84 million and will, for the most part, be federally funded.
However, $369,000 of the cost will come through local funding, according to a project fact sheet from Hulsey.
Preliminary engineering plans for the first phase, which has been authorized by the Douglas County Commission, is $205,000.
Douglas County resident David Murphy said he travels Thornton Road almost daily and the traffic congestion is, “the worst, I believe, on the south side of Atlanta.”
“It is also just as bad on weekends,” he said.