Local News

1/18/2013

Sign change clears up island traffic

Background: When Glynn County reconfigured the gateway to St. Simons Island in 2009, the intent was to ease the flow of traffic by creating a loop linking Kings Way, Sea Island Road and Demere Road.

But over time, county officials realized motorists on eastbound Kings Way sometimes struggled to safely merge onto Sea Island Road and get into the left lane within a few hundred feet to drive to the mainland via the F.J. Torras Causeway.

A traffic study indicated two problems that may have contributed to the 20 accidents in 2011, mostly rear-end collisions, at the westbound merge from Kings Way to northbound Sea Island Road.

One problem was motorists had a challenge seeing oncoming traffic because of the awkward angle, which forced them to look over their left shoulder as they merged onto Sea Island Road.

The other problem was some motorists failed to stop for oncoming traffic at the intersection which had a yield sign.

County commissioners last April approved recommendations to replace the yield sign with a stop sign and reconfigure the intersection so it is more perpendicular with Kings Way. Motorists no longer would have to turn their heads more than 90 degrees to see oncoming traffic.

The work was completed in May in about a half day for less than $1,000. It was simply a matter of buying two stop signs and poles, removing the old striping and painting new lines that changed the angle for traffic merging onto Sea Island Road.

What's new: County officials believe the changes have made a difference.

Some people had expressed concerns forcing vehicles to come to a complete stop would create traffic backups, but that never happened.

Motorists also have a clearer view of oncoming traffic when merging onto Sea Island Road.

"Now, they are encouraged to wait for a gap (in traffic) to get over to the left," said David Olson, county traffic engineer.

Olson said the only reported problem was a motorist who, unfamiliar with the area, turned left into oncoming traffic after the angle was changed.

"I got a one-way sign up within a few hours after that one," Olson said. "I think we're pretty good to go now."

Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said he hasn't done a comparison of accident rates since the changes but plans to do one in the coming months. Olson said a study will likely confirm his belief the intersection is safer.

"A before and after traffic study would be helpful to see how safe that intersection is," he said. "I have not been aware of any problems."

-Gordon Jackson