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 Dawson 400 8372 RESIZE

Dawson County Sheriff’s Office directs traffic as signals are checked in anticipation of the
intersection going live. PHOTOS: BY DENISE RAY

GA 400 & SR 53 Continuous Flow Intersection Opens

Subhead: Project under budget, delayed

By Denise Ray This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The much anticipated opening of the GA 400 and SR 53 intersection in Dawson County took place a week late, but under budget.

At roughly 10 p.m. Monday, May 15 the continuous flow intersection at GA 400 and SR 53 had not opened as planned but everyone remained hopeful.

“We’re going to take the intersection down and the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office will direct traffic through the intersection while we test the new stuff,” said the Georgia DOT Communications Officer at 9:37 p.m. “Once we test and everything’s good, then we’ll go live. It’ll be like out with the old and in with the new.”

Why 10 p.m.? The main reason was safety.

“Look at the volume we have right now versus the volume we have at a peak time,” Strickland explained. “If we’re out here at 6 a.m. trying to maneuver all these vehicles and walk across the intersection, it would not happen safely.”

Dawson 400 8330

Workers finish laying asphalt at 10:30 p.m. in preparation for the final striping of the "
intersection.

Taking a look around the intersection, Strickland added, “This time of night there’s minimal traffic and everybody’s able to slow down. There’s not going to be any bottlenecking because of the amount of traffic we have now.”

The project was awarded more than two years ago, when, according to Strickland, the Georgia DOT public outreach came forward about this intersection. An interchange was proposed and subsequently rejected due to the expense and timing of purchasing local properties to allow for ramps and overpasses.

“Local businesses have been more than welcoming,” Strickland said. “They’ve been very, very nice. They know that it needed to be improved and that this is one aspect where GDOT is a front runner. A project like this is innovative. The footprint it leaves is a lot smaller than ramps and overpasses and those kinds of things.”

It’s also the first one in Georgia.

“They’re in Louisiana, Utah and Florida, but this is the first one in the state, and it’s right here in Dawsonville,” Strickland shared. “That’s pretty impressive.”

As of 1:30 a.m. the new lights were operating successfully and the old ones were removed Director of Public Works David McKee said. The intersection went live at 3:30 a.m. according to Strickland.

“I believe the contract completion date was actually last Wednesday the 10th, so we’re not too far off from our goal,” Strickland said. “But with any innovative project like this or with anything needing this much coordination, it’s pretty impressive for them to have gotten it open within a week of the contract times, especially with the weather we’ve had.”

The premise of the intersection is, according to Assistant District Construction Engineer Jason Dykes, to cut out wait time. When a driver approaches an intersection, they have to wait for “left turners” to proceed through the intersection before moving forward.

Dawson 400 8318

Technicians check equipment to ensure signals work properly and are synchronized.

“Continuous flow is a misnomer,” Dykes said. “The better terminology is displaced left turn. It means the left turners have been moved further back or displaced from the intersection. By removing the left turn from the intersection, the efficiency of the intersection is increased.”

Drivers wanting to turn left off GA 400 will be “displaced” and turn before the intersection.

“They will cue up into a lane which will then be released by a signal that will cross them over GA 400 northbound or southbound, get into another cue where they will have another signal that will let them turn left,” Dykes further explained. “It’s going to allow traffic to flow on the side streets independently. It’s taking the left turn out of the main intersection.”

Drivers on SR 53 will still turn left at the main intersection, according to Dykes.

“It’s not a full CFI where all the left turns are displaced,” Dykes said.

The project came in under budget, according to Dykes at $11.2 million with an estimated $14 million budget.

Local residents, including Paige Sweany, seemed pleased with the change.

“I was very pleased at how quickly and easily I got through the intersection,” Sweany said. “It’s wonderful. I’m looking forward to see how well it will handle the traffic for Moonshine and Gold Rush and all the visitors.”

From a safety perspective, the intersection did well also.

So far, so good,” said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson. “We have one reported accident that the Georgia State Patrol investigated. Otherwise the intersection is operating smoothly. I believe this is greatly attributed to drivers exercising great care and caution when entering the intersection.”

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