No change is expected regarding a busy intersection near two Brooklet-area schools that some say is a major traffic hassle.
Each morning and afternoon, when Southeast Bulloch Middle and High school students arrive and depart, the intersection of Brooklet-Denmark, Brannen Pond and Pretoria Rushing roads is congested with vehicles.
But while complaints have been made to Bulloch County commissioners by phone, on social media and elsewhere, two public meetings yielded no strong opposition.
After a public meeting in August and another last week, commissioners decided not to take action on the issue at this time, said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch.
During the last meeting, area residents admitted the four-way stop has virtually eliminated crashes, he said.
The intersection, a stone’s throw from the schools’ connecting campuses, was once a two-way stop. County officials changed it in 2016 to a four-way stop, and that worked, said Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson.
During last week’s meeting, the commissioners and Couch spoke with a small crowd. A consultant shared data showing the four-way stop was the safest option, as well as the least expensive, Couch said.
Other suggestions were to install a traffic circle, or roundabout, or place a traffic light at the intersection, he said. But when Thompson brought up the cost of a roundabout or light, people were not impressed with the ideas.
“We have fixed the safety issue,” Thompson said. “But when I asked everyone if they wanted to spend $1 million on a roundabout, they did not.”
To build a traffic circle large enough to accommodate local farm equipment, “it would have to be a pretty large roundabout,” he said, adding that the cost would be between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.
“I asked, do
you really want to spend that kind of money?” he said.
Daily traffic jams
Every day when students arrive at school, the intersection slows traffic to a crawl. It is the same in the afternoon when school is out — hundreds of cars halted, waiting turns to navigate the intersection.
Parents have said the wait to get through the intersection is too long, often making them late for work or other duties.
Commissioners recognize the inconvenience, but safety is priority, Couch said.
According to data provided in 2016 by Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn, there were 22 crashes, one fatal, at the intersection in 2013.
"We looked at the CAD, or computer-aided dispatch, sheets, and it appeared that most of the accidents were occurring during the daylight hours, around or close to school taking-in time or letting-out time," he said then.
Thompson said on Wednesday that there has only been one minor accident at the intersection since it became a four-way stop.
Southeast Bulloch High School principal Stephen Hoyle said implementing a remediation class after regular classes are over has affected the traffic in a positive way, even though the congestion remains.
When the bell rings at 3 p.m., students report to a study hall type of class, where teachers can give additional help or instruction. The class lasts until 3:25 p.m.
This keeps most high school students in place while the middle school lets out, which helps alleviate some congestion, he said.
High school students who do not need to stay for the remediation class and who either ride in cars or drive are allowed to leave at 3:05 p.m., he said.
In spite of the traffic snarl, commissioners feel the trade-off in favor of safety is worth the wait.
“We see congestion at other schools in the county, too,” Thompson said.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at 912-489-9414.