The new traffic light at North Whitfield Middle School will begin on Thursday

December 15 — The traffic light at the intersection of Cleveland Highway and Trailblazer Lane, the new entrance to North Whitfield Middle School in Varnell, will begin operating on Thursday.

Electronic signs on Cleveland Highway on either side of the intersection alert motorists to the change.

Whitfield County Engineer Kent Benson told members of the County Commissioners Council last week that the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) normally requires new traffic lights to flash amber for two weeks before starting to operate in order to accustom motorists to the new signal. But he said in this case the GDOT allowed the use of flashing signs to open the new entrance to the school more quickly.

Some Varnell residents said on Tuesday they were happy to see the school’s new entrance opening.

“I think it’s going to make a big difference in terms of safety and speeding up traffic,” said Pete Reynolds.

Sam Dorman agrees.

“We have needed it for some time,” he said.

The school opened on its new site in August, moving from its previous location just south of the city limits of Varnell to the 60-acre site next to Edwards Park. The project cost $ 26 million, which was funded by a five-year sales tax for Local Special Use Options for Education (ESPLOST) that voters approved in March 2017. This tax is expected to collect $ 98 million. dollars, with Whitfield County schools receiving $ 61 million and Dalton Public. Schools $ 37 million based on each school system’s enrollment share.

Vehicles are currently entering the school through the entrance to Edwards Park. The new entrance is across from the Big D flea market.

“The new entrance to the school at the newly signposted intersection is actually a county road that serves both North Whitfield Middle and Edwards Park,” Benson said. “Southbound traffic should enter and exit at the signposted intersection. Northbound traffic may choose between this intersection and the right-to-right lane leading into Edwards Park. “

A North Whitfield student died of injuries from a shipwreck at the intersection of Cleveland Highway and the entrance to Edwards Park in September.

According to a Georgia State Patrol public information official, Lucas Welch-Stringfield, 12, was a passenger in a 2013 Toyota Corolla traveling south on Cleveland Highway in the center turn lane. A 2014 Chevrolet Silverado was driving north in the left lane. The driver of the Corolla “didn’t give in and turned left in front of” the Silverado, which struck the Corolla “on the right side” with his forehead. The driver of the Corolla “and the three minor occupants were transported by land / air to various medical facilities”.

When the new entrance opens, the entrance to Edwards Park “will become just in and out only,” Benson said. Drivers will not be able to turn left in the park or turn left to exit the park.

Dorman said this should improve traffic and safety at Edwards Park as well as at the school.

“When you have ball games and things like that (at Edwards Park) the traffic can be slowed down with people trying to get in and out of the park,” he said. “If people aren’t trying to turn on traffic (on Cleveland Highway), it should move better. It’ll probably be safer, too.”

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