A rising toll of crashes and severe injuries has led to increased calls for change at the intersection of Goza Road and Antioch Road, and Fayette County seems ready to listen.
The intersection, which was realigned to its current setup in 2011, in the southern-central portion of the county has been a magnet for serious crashes since that work.
“A lot of people are interested in the Antioch-Goza intersection, and the reason for that is obvious. It’s crushed cars, a few fatalities, and some serious injuries,” said Commissioner Steve Brown, noting that he had been reached by at least 100 residents expressing their concerns. “A lot of people are wondering why the county is not doing something.”
Brown referenced the Transportation Committee saying the intersection was not one of their top priorities based on data collection methods in use at the time.
“I just had a real problem with that because we had such a loud citizen outcry on this particular intersection,” said Brown, noting that he had only seen such interest in traffic issues in extremely rare instances in his time in government. “That’s very rare. That wakes me up.”
He urged taking the feedback seriously.
“My basic philosophy is if the citizens say we have a problem, they’re the boss. We have a problem,” he said. We need to look at it, and we need to do something about it.”
Phil Mallon, Director of Public Works, concurred that he had received an abnormally large amount of calls about the intersection.
“I also have learned if you get even one or two emails or calls on the same topic, there’s something there. We just have to dig down and find it,” he said.
Mallon noted the data the Transportation Committee was using was found to be inaccurate. Some crash data that was presented as late as May did not match the feedback staff was getting from residents.
“We got an update, and the crash counts, for 2017 in particular, were higher than we first thought.”
Even though the volume of traffic at the intersection may not warrant major changes, the excessive speed does.
“When we do the analysis to see is a four-way stop justified, one of the factors is speed, in addition to volume. This speed puts it over that threshold point.”
Brown echoed the sentiments of many that drivers regularly drive too fast through the area.
“They’re flying through there, and we should just thank our lucky stars here that the (crash) numbers are as small as they are,” he said.
The number of crashes and injuries at the intersection has increased over the last four years, with 2017 already the highest only through July. The Sheriff’s Office has documented 11 crashes, six with injuries, and one fatality so far in 2017.
Mallon’s initial recommendation is to convert it to a four-way stop as an interim measure.
“I think we can get that done quickly,” he said, noting that the biggest delay would be in getting someone to black out existing striping and putting new striping down as needed. “I think we could implement that within weeks.”
A long line of area residents took their turn during discussions to plead for a change at the intersection.
“The crashes are quite personal,” said Philip Doolittle, pointing to the graph of crash statistics with this year’s fatality marked in yellow. “The yellow line you saw earlier, her name is Natalie Davis. She’s dead.”
Doolittle said that the crashes at the intersection are more severe than simple numbers can indicate and asked for a better way to represent them. Just the day before, there was a crash at the intersection where those involved had to be taken to Grady Memorial Hospital due to the severity of their injuries.
“These are not fender benders,” he said. “These are a car crosses in front of a 60 mile-an-hour car and parts and blood go everywhere.”
It leads to a sense of dread for many that live in the area when they hear about a wreck.
“When you hear about a crash, you start calling the children, you start calling the wife. For us, that’s a monthly occurrence now,” he said. “It’s a threat to peaceful life down that way.”
A homeowner living the intersection shared photos of the many serious wrecks right by, and sometimes in, her front yard.
“I beg you, on behalf of the whole community, on behalf of our families, and just for the good of strangers who ride through and have no idea what they’re coming up against, this intersection must be taken care of quickly and sufficiently.”
The Antioch-Goza intersection is on the project list for the recently-approved SPLOST referendum, and Brown asked that it be declared a priority. Otherwise, the county runs the risk that the money could dry up before every project on the list is finished.
Brown made a four-part motion, each approved unanimously, with a goal to get the project fast tracked. Staff will also be tasked with determining the best safety steps to take immediately, be it additional signage, lighting, or rumble strips.
The longterm solution, whether it is modifications to the current two-way stop, a four-way stop, a roundabout, or some other solution, would be pending the results of an engineering study. Resident feedback would be a key component.
“The points that the public brought up and the emotion are real factors,” said Mallon. “One thing I’m going to do is whoever’s doing this work, I’m going to say sit aside an hour to watch this Board meeting and hear this yourself. I think it changes your mindset a little bit.”