Peachtree City was uniquely effected by a law signed earlier this year by Governor Nathan Deal. The new law, House Bill 877, allows local governments to “regulate the use of personal transportation vehicles upon roadways.”
The upshot is the city can, if it desires, allow golf carts to legally cross state highways like Highways 54 and 74. The key there is “legally,” as many residents have been known to cross highways on carts despite the law against it.
As Community Services Director Jon Rorie explained to council Thursday, the change sounds simple enough, but could prove to be very complicated. He explained the city can’t just slap up signage and give carts the green light to begin crossing. A plan will have to be submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for each intersection at which the city might want to make cart crossings legal.
As of now, Rorie said GDOT has no guidelines and “no administrative guidance” for how cities should design and implement safe crossings.
“There is no picture, if you will, of here’s the city’s approach and here’s what GDOT will approve. Basically we’re flying in the dark,” Rorie said.
Rorie presented nine intersections as candidates for consideration, but suggested council focus on two or three to start out rather than “overwhelming” GDOT with plans for every intersection at once.
Rorie listed the following intersections:
-Highway 74 and Cooper Circle
-Highway 74 and Crosstown Drive
-Highway 54 and MacDuff Parkway
-Highway 54 and Planterra Way
-Highway 54 and Willowbend Road/Flat Creek
-Highway 54 and Walt Banks Road
-Highway 54 and Lexington Circle
-Highway 54 and Sumner Road
Rorie pointed to the crossing at Highway 74 and Crosstown Drive as the “800-pound gorilla in the room because of the difficulty making such a long crossing safe for carts.
“That would be the most complicated intersection for us to deal with,” Rorie explained by phone on Monday. “You have people trying to merge, turn lanes. It’s essentially six lanes [across],” Rorie said, estimating the road is about 75 to 100 feet across at that point.
Council Member Terry Ernst said he was “very into” the crossing at Highway 74 and Crosstown, citing the inconvenience for golfers that have to detour down to the nearest tunnel to get across the road to play golf.
That intersection, a long with a few others, would need to be carefully studied according to Rorie. He said, if he were working for GDOT, he would be very hesitant to approve that crossing.
“If I was a traffic engineer at GDOT there’s no way I would put my stamp on that unless I had data after data after data to support it,” Rorie said.
He suggested it might be best if smaller projects were addressed first so that the city could get more familiar with what GDOT is willing to approve and perhaps be better prepared to submit a plan for 74 and Crosstown.
Rorie said the overriding concern in establishing any of the crossings is safety, but noted there are other complications, like how increased cart crossing traffic could slow car traffic. He pointed out the city had already put considerable time and effort into optimizing the timing for traffic lights along the Highway 54 corridor because traffic can become very congested. He wondered how increased cart crossings would effect those efforts to mitigate traffic delays.
Rorie actually suggested that council leave the Highway 54 intersections at Lexington Circle and Sumner Road off the project list for now. In both cases the roadway is in the county on one side and the city on the other, which he said serves to complicate matters further as the city has to coordinate a plan with the county.
Though he recommended those projects be put on the back burner, council’s discussion actually resulted in putting the two at the top of the list. It was suggested that working with the county on the two intersections would be a useful learning experience, in part because there will likely need to be some level of cooperation between the two entities as the county prepares to extend cart paths down Redwine Road to the Starr’s Mill school complex. That complex is outside city limits, but path access to the schools would serve many city residents.
Rorie noted Monday that some people already cross the highway illegally at those two intersections. He said the city frequently hears from residents who want to be able to cross highways.
“It’s not as easy as people think when you’re trying to coordinate these situations,” Rorie said. “We have a lot of people requesting that they be able to cross these state routes. Our concern is just making sure we come up with safe alternatives.”