BY KRISTI REED
With the West Winder Bypass on hold due to lack of state funding, county officials have been forced to look at short and intermediate term solutions to the traffic problems facing Barrow County.
One of the solutions under consideration is a cross county route to alleviate congestion in downtown Winder and move traffic across the county more efficiently.
Marta Rosen of Jacobs Carter Burgess presented the results of a supplemental study related to the county’s comprehensive transportation plan at the June 10 meeting of the Barrow County Board of Commissioners.
The purpose of the supplemental study was to identify solutions that will maintain mobility for travelers within the county and provide adequate capacity to keep large trucks out of the downtown area.
Rosen said one of the key issues in crafting traffic solutions for the city of Winder is that several state routes converge in the heart of the city. This concentrates through traffic in a small area, increasing congestion and lengthening travel times for commuters.
As part of the study, Jacobs Carter Burgess compared commonly traveled routes within the county to less traveled perimeter routes on existing roadways. The results indicated that even though the perimeter routes were longer, the travel times were faster than passing through Winder.
Rosen said the study indicated that approximately 8,000 vehicles per day could be attracted to a cross-county route which would divert traffic around Winder.
In order to construct the cross-county route, the county would have to spend between $27 million and $31 million to pave shoulders, widen roads, straighten sharp curves, increase site distances and improve intersections of existing roads.
Rather than attempting to undertake such a large project at once, the study suggested the proposed route be divided into nine segments and prioritized according to need.
Rosen identified Pearl Pentecost Road as a high priority project. The proposed $4 million project would include widening lanes on Carl Cedar Hill Road, Pearl Pentecost Road and state route 8. Intersection improvements would include the addition of turn lanes and increasing the turning radius to accommodate large trucks. Improvements to the railroad crossing would also be part of the project.
Public works director Terry Darragh said that while the West Winder Bypass is the best solution to Barrow’s traffic problems, state funding is not available.
“There are short term issues we have,” he said. “Congestion is here and it is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Darragh recommended that once the study findings were finalized, the county should consider phased implementation of the cross-county route.
The county plans to present the findings of the study to the Georgia Department of Transportation within the next two months in the hopes that the state will move the bypass out of long term funding.
In the meantime, commission chairman Doug Garrison said the study will serve as a good tool to make short term improvements.
In other business, the board:
• unanimously approved the appointment of Lisa Bramlett as the employee representative to the ethics board.
• approved the purchase of 25 stab vests and 25 ballistic vests for the sheriff’s department. The $18,800 contract was awarded to GT Distributors of Georgia. The purchase will be funded in part with a grant from the Department of Justice.
• awarded a $784,400 contract to ISC inc. for improvements to the intersection of Carl Bethlehem and Haymon Morris Road. According to Darragh, two right of ways must be obtained before work can proceed. Darragh said construction will begin within 30 days with an estimated completion date in September or October of this year. District 3 commissioner Bill Healan congratulated Darragh and his department for coming in under the $1 million budget for the project. “To watch something come in so smoothly and under budget – that’s the way it is supposed to work,” he said.