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Planning, driving keys to avoiding accidents

By Ed Brock

Stephanie Curry is skeptical about a proposed plan to ease congestion at the intersection of Tara Boulevard and Ga. Highway 138 near Jonesboro.

The plan calls for a bridge that would carry Tara Boulevard over Highway 138, a major project that would be sure to impact the Eckerd's drugstore on one corner of the intersection where Curry works.

"It might be more trouble than what they're trying to solve," Curry said.

The Tara Boulevard/Highway 138 intersection is one of the busiest in the county where from July 2002 to June 2003 there were 126 accidents. On the northern end of Tara Boulevard is another one of Clayton County's more dangerous intersections where Tara Boulevard, Upper Riverdale Road, Old Dixie Road come together as Tara Boulevard terminates in access ramps for I-75.

That intersection is also part of the project Clayton County officials have proposed to the Georgia Department of Transportation, said the county's Director of Transportation and Development Wayne Patterson. Patterson said Clayton County Commission Chairman Crandle Bray took the plan to GDOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl about three months ago.

"He asked them to look at it conceptually to see if we can put in a bridge and tunnel," Patterson said.

The tunnel would be at the Tara Boulevard/Upper Riverdale intersection with Tara Boulevard being the road that would run through the tunnel.

"In my opinion a tunnel would possibly be cheaper and would need less right of way," Patterson said. "We hope the state will look at it and, since it's a state route, pay for this whole thing, or part of it."

Linnenkohl has sent the proposal to GDOT's Offices of Planning and Traffic Operations for consideration, said GDOT spokesman Bert Brantley.

"The first step in the process is to see if it's a feasible project," Brantley said.

GDOT has to consider first if the proposed changes would help the situation as well as how much it would cost. Brantley could not say when the planning and traffic operations offices would finish their assessment of the project.

"Some proposals go very quickly and some don't," Brantley said. "These two projects sound very involved."

Having the support of the communities involved helps push the process into actual planning and construction, Brantley said.

Many citizens have called to ask what could be done about those specific intersections, Patterson said. He added that some of the money from the recently passed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for roadwork projects might be used to help fund the bridge and tunnel.

"We need to proclaim these projects as major needs in Clayton County so we can move forward as soon as possible to the construction phase," Patterson said.

The county also plans to use its SPLOST money on some projects that would improve other intersections in the county. They include Cash Memorial Drive at Old Dixie Road, Elliot Road at Fielder Road, Evans Road at Rex Road, N. McDonough Street at Ga. Highway 138, Webb Road at Ga. Highway 85 and College Street at Main Street in Forest Park.

Most of the work will involve widening the roads or adding left turn pockets, Patterson said.

Clayton County Traffic Engineer Jeff Metarko's department is constantly looking for patterns of accidents at different intersections in order to identify trouble spots. But to some degree it's up to the county's drivers to make the roads safer.

Metarko said drivers need to pay attention and exercise defense driving.

"That idea is falling to the wayside. We're seeing more and more people who are driving offensively," Metarko said.