Commission looks at tough choices with Adams Road

Published 8:30 pm Wednesday, April 3, 2019

By Alicia B. Hill

The Troup County Board of Commissioners hit a wall on Tuesday, as they attempted to work with residents of Adams Road who have expressed concerns that increased traffic will eventually result in a fatality on what was once a quiet country road.

Several members of the Troup County Board of Commissioners spoke in favor of measures meant to address those changes at the meeting. However, despite the almost unanimous local support for a lower speed on the road, the board of commissioners found themselves with a difficult choice — lower the speed limit without state approval, making it almost impossible to enforce, or leave the speed limit at a number that neither residents nor the commission favor.

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The board of commissioners discussed at length options for making the road safer at its work session on Thursday. On Tuesday, the board and its attorney had the opportunity to share what they had found in regards to lowering the speed limit from 45 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour. According to County Attorney Jerry Willis, the board of commissioners can change the speed limit, but if it was changed without supporting evidence and GDOT approval, the Troup County Sheriff’s Office would not be able to run radar to catch drivers speeding on the road and tickets could be challenged in court.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an all-way stop on the road to make it safer to turn from one of the side streets. The commission also asked that the county engineer review sight distance on the road and work with the Georgia Department of Transportation to look into the requested speed change.

Sheriff James Woodruff asked the board to allow for a deputy to spend as much time as possible near the intersection after the all-way stop is installed. Troup County has already taken several measures to discourage speeding on the road, which serves as the quickest route from Columbus to Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, including more TCSO patrols during shift changes and a flashing sign showing drivers their speed. According to County Engineer James Emery, those efforts have had an impact, but residents still worried about fast, reckless drivers.

“What they are reporting in front of the sign is only 2 and 3 percent in the last two quarters, so there’s been a tremendous decrease in the percentage of speeders that are traveling more than 10 miles per hour above the speed limit,” Emery said. “At the same time… average daily traffic in both directions has increased from 512 to 787 to 834 and now to 906 currently.”

The number of accidents on the road was also considered, but according to Emery, they did not provide a strong support of lowering the speed limit, with no accidents in the last two quarters and two to three accidents a year on Adams Road between 2016 and 2018. The accidents considered could include anything from cars crashing into fences to collisions between vehicles.

There have been several speed limit studies performed on the road, but none have supported a decreased speed limit. According to Emery, a speed limit study in 2012 showed a recommended speed limit of 50 miles per hour, but the speed limit did not change from 45 miles per hour at that time. He said this week he used information on speeds, peak hours, the number of vehicles and other information gathered in order to see if the results would come out differently in 2019. Speed limit studies typically take weeks to months to complete, but due to ongoing information gathering efforts on the road, information that typically takes weeks to gather was already available.

“Yesterday, we were able to run the study again because of all the work that is ongoing. Because of having the sign out there, all of the factors that we use to input into this federal highway administration software were available to us,” Emery said. “So, we were able to run the study again, and again it came to the recommended speed of 50 miles per hour.”

The commissioners expressed hopes that adding more information on sight distances would confirm what multiple residents of Adams Road have seen first-hand. Meanwhile, a resident asked them to look for a way around the GDOT requirements, and a meeting attendee asked if speed bumps had been considered. Speed bumps are generally not recommended on county roads, but other options were discussed in the meeting.

Commissioner Morris Jones asked if the speed could be lowered on a section of the road. Emery said features like sharp curves may require drivers slow down, actual speed limit changes but outside that specific area of concern would not change for zones less than a quarter of a mile.

Commissioner Ellis Cadenhead asked if the road could be closed to through traffic, and Emery said that public roads could not be closed to the general public. Jones also asked about changing the road to a dead end, but Emery said that such a change would require that the road not serve a public purpose, a requirement it would be unlikely to meet due to heavy traffic.

Cadenhead also asked if classifying Adams Road as a scenic corridor would give the board power to lower the speed, and Emery said it would not.

In the meeting, the Troup County Board of Commissioners also approved changes to speed limits on Blue Creek Road, Mobley Bridge Road and Stovall Road and the addition of a school zone on South Davis Road by Clearview Elementary School. All were at the request of GDOT in order to allow for use of radar on those roads.