Don’t grab the smelling salts; you’ve dealt with this news before, Uptowners. Beginning Monday, Peachtree Street/Road just northwest of I-85 will see intermittent lane closures during daytime hours until as late as the early fall. Before turning beat red and stringing together four-letter words and gerunds about the dysfunctional government, consider the reasoning. These are not closures for hanging and painting big “PEACHTREE” letters and arches on the I-85 bridge, or fixing the sewer and then fixing the fix, or for an unauthorized crane that then broke, or for the construction of private buildings. Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson Natalie Dale explained the project.
“The focus of this project is a utility pole safety program,” Dale told News 95.5/AM750 WSB news director Chris Camp. Dale said the project is a phase in the Clear Roadside Program (CRP), where GDOT works with various utility companies to move utility poles farther back from the edges of the roads. “We look at corridors that have a high rate of drivers leaving the roadway and hitting these utility poles.”
Both the public and private sector pick up the tab.
“We look to fund a program that is 50% funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation and 50% by the utility companies, to move these poles away from the road ways and create a safer clear zone.”
The premise is simple: GDOT and, in this case, Georgia Power identify places where poles are very close to the road. By moving back, say, a road of streetlights, drivers have a higher margin of error.
“If you fell asleep or weren’t paying attention and ran off the road, you’d be able to correct back onto the road before you hit a pole,” Dale explained, noting that GDOT and Georgia Power have done this on Northside Drive at Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in northwest Atlanta.
Dale said that crews need one to two days to move a pole back far enough. Initially, this project will focus on Peachtree between Deering Road and Collier Road. A cursory look at Google Maps shows at least a few dozen utility poles in that half-mile stretch. For sure, the project will cause intermittent lane closures, but Dale said those closures could expand to a bigger stretch on Peachtree. The CRP will continue to meet to decide the sections of Peachtree — and elsewhere — that most need these pole push backs.
The hours of work are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Dale wants to remind drivers that these, “are not full lane closures, they are intermittent lane closures on certain sections.” And the contract for the work allows for the minimum pain inflicted on the midday commute. “It would only be on the north side or the south side at a time, so you’re not going to have lanes closed on the north and the southbound at the same time.”
Officials are still finalizing some parts of the project, but Dale said that these pole shifts cannot happen overnight.
“It is safest for the Georgia Power crews and for the general public for these closures to be done during the daylight hours.” Do not discount the cost of labor to pay people to work overnight, as well.
The contract allows for the project to last until November, but builds in possible weather delays. Essentially, November is a worst-case scenario. “It’s not outside the realm of possibility that this may be finished much sooner,” Dale said.
So as some of you prepare to stew and simmer over crawling traffic on Peachtree — as many of my co-workers (and I) will — Dale said to remember the main reason both GDOT and Georgia Power are beginning such an undertaking.
Doug Turnbull, the PM drive Skycopter anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at Doug.Turnbull@coxinc.com.