Controversial bypass intersection: Protesters say, “Fix it or close it”
Nearly 75 people gathered late Friday afternoon at the intersection of Huiet Road/West Fayetteville Bypass and Ga. Highway 54 to silently protest the opening of the southbound lanes prior to the installation of the traffic signal. Fresh on their minds, some said, was the death last week of Peachtree City resident Amy Layton that resulted from a traffic crash as she was attempting to turn west onto Hwy. 54 from the newly opened southbound lanes of the bypass.
The protest Friday was organized by Suzy Obsitnik and Jenny Humbard, whose children attend the nearby Cleveland Elementary/Bennett’s Mill Middle School complex.
Humbard, Obsitnik and nearly 75 others assembled just inside the unopened north side of the bypass. They stood in silence for 30 minutes with the newly opened southbound lanes directly across the intersection. Many held signs that said “Fix it or Close it,” or “Why,” or “Safety First.”
Obsitnik before the silent protest said the opening of the southbound bypass lanes Aug. 9, the same day the schools opened, created a confusing dilemma for motorists and amounted to an accident waiting to happen. Obsitnik’s five children are all districted to Bennett’s Mill Middle School.
“There was no reason to open (the intersection) before the work was finished and the traffic light is installed,” she said. “Either close the intersection or close the left turn lane on Huiet Road for people going to Peachtree City. They can go (a short distance) east and turn around before the hospital.”
Humbard agreed, adding that when she heard that Layton had died she remembered having said to a friend that, “Somebody’s going to die here.”
Obsitnik said the need for a traffic light at the intersection has been an issue for years.
“We needed a light since the day Bennett’s Mill opened,” she said. “But why open an unfinished road the day school starts and not wait for the traffic light.”
Commenting on the idea of closing either the southbound bypass lanes, Huiet Road or both until the traffic signal can be installed in the coming months, Fayette County Administrator Jack Krakeel said Friday morning that he spoke with representatives from the sheriff’s office, the county public works department and the project’s consulting engineer.
All said (the intersection) was safe in terms of the provisions being made for the traffic flow at an intersection under construction, Krakeel said.
Layton, 21, died as a result on injuries she sustained in a traffic accident Aug. 13 when she attempted to cross the eastbound lanes of Hwy. 54 around 3:54 p.m., officials said. As she did so, her vehicle was struck on the driver’s side by a 1995 Oldsmobile Alero traveling eastbound, causing Layton’s car to spin into the westbound lanes of Hwy. 54, officials said.
Layton suffered serious injuries and was transported via air ambulance to Atlanta Medical Center, where she later died from her injuries, officials said.
Layton’s fiance, Peachtree City resident Adam Gault, was also at the protest. Obviously shaken, Gault offered only a limited comment.
“My angel, Amy, didn’t deserve to pay for the lowest bidder’s mistakes with her life,” Gault said.
Commenting on the crash Friday, Krakeel noted that the preliminary accident report by sheriff’s traffic investigators pertaining to the Aug. 13 crash showed that line-of-sight was not an issue and that the barrels positioned along the construction site were appropriately placed and did not obstruct the view of oncoming traffic.
“We did everything we could to make the intersection functional for the traveling public,” he said.
Krakeel also referenced the loss of life that followed the Aug. 13 accident, noting that he, too, has a 21 year-old daughter.
“This was a tragedy,” Krakeel said.
Also at the protest was Fayette County Commissioner-elect Allen McCarty, who said he was there to help support, “The citizens of my county with the problem they are having.”
McCarty, too, called for the closure of the southbound lanes of the bypass or perhaps re-open Huiet Road until the traffic light is installed.
“The road wasn’t ready to be opened,” McCarty said.
One of the number of Fayette County sheriff’s officers at the scene Friday was Maj. Bryan Woodie. Asked about the number of accidents at the intersection, Woodie said there had been five accidents so far this year, six in 2009, seven in 2008, 11 in 2007 and 10 in 2006. There was another fatality at the intersection approximately five years ago.