Whitfield County needs to try to get ahead of some of its transportation needs before small problems become big ones, County Engineer Kent Benson told members of a citizens advisory committee that will make recommendations to the county Board of Commissioners for projects to be funded by a planned 2020 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).
Benson spoke to committee members Tuesday night at the Edwards Park Community Center about transportation projects identified by the Greater Dalton Metropolitan Planning Organization, which handles long-range transportation planning for Whitfield County.
Benson proposed a $17.43 million package of transportation projects he said are needed to improve safety and traffic flow. They are:
• Brickyard Road from South Dixie Highway to South Hamilton Street. Increase lane width and drainage. Add turn lanes and a possible signal at the South Dixie Highway intersection.
• Dawnville Road/State Route 286 intersection. Benson said drivers' frustration with waiting causes them to attempt dangerous turns. He has requested the Georgia Department of Transportation to study this intersection to see if a traffic signal or roundabout would help.
• Houston Valley Road/Mount Vernon Road intersection. Add a roundabout.
• North Reed Road from State Route 201 to Lake Katherine Road. Realign the road and improve the intersection at Lake Katherine Road.
• Reed Road from the North Dalton Bypass to State Route 201. Improve major intersections. Use local money as matching funds for federal dollars on a widening project.
• Reed Road/Rauschenberg Road intersection. Add a traffic signal or roundabout.
• South Dixie Highway at Industrial Boulevard and Foster Road. Improve turn lanes and signalize intersection of South Dixie Highway and Industrial Boulevard/Lucille Drive. Install turn lanes at South Dixie Highway and Foster Road.
• State Route 201/Old LaFayette Road/Houston Valley Road intersection. Align Old LaFayette Road and Houston Valley Road and move the intersection away from the blind hill. Possibly add a traffic signal.
• Underwood Road from the North Dalton Bypass to Dawnville Road. Improve alignment. Improve intersection at Brooker Drive and at Dawnville Road. Add turn lane or lanes at Dawnville Road.
One of those projects — Brickyard Road from South Dixie Highway to South Hamilton Street — could address some of the concerns of a county resident who suggested Brickyard Road/South Dixie Highway intersection safety improvements as a potential SPLOST project.
"The turning radius from Brickyard Road out onto South Dixie Highway is really tight," Benson said. "There's no shoulder there, a lot of truck traffic. Anytime a tractor-trailer wants to turn, in any direction, oncoming traffic has to stop. The driver has to depend on the cars to stop, and that's not a safe situation."
Committee members said they don't have the engineering expertise to determine which of the transportation projects are the most needed but said they agree with Benson that improving safety and staying ahead of the county's transportation needs are vital.
"One of the major reasons we are here is because this county has been reactive for 50 years," said committee member David Pennington IV. "It may be time to start being proactive and find ways to help this county grow over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years."
Benson also outlined $6 million in renovation projects for the south end of the courthouse, which was built in 1961. That includes a new roof, which is leaking and causing mold, as well as a new heating and air conditioning system, and installing new plumbing, electrical, flooring and fire sprinklers.
"I think the roof is clearly a major need," said committee member Steve Card. "The safety of the employees who work there and the citizens who use that building is vital. That mold starts with the roof."
The SPLOST advisory committee will meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Dalton's Mack Gaston Community Center. It is scheduled to hear from City of Dalton officials about projects for the Parks and Recreation Department, the Dalton-Whitfield County Public Library and the Dalton-Whitfield Senior Center. The committee's meetings are open to the public and can be livestreamed at https://livestream.com/accounts/25637515/events/7960637.