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Red lights on some major roads reworked to ease commute

LAWRENCEVILLE - If you dread jaw-clinching, horn-blasting rush hours stuck at one red light after another, relief could be on the way.

Traffic lights on three busy Gwinnett roads have been synchronized to make the drive smoother. That means motorists may encounter less stop-and-go traffic when the highways are busiest.

Connie Gregory, who works at Gwinnett Hospital System in Lawrenceville, knows traffic headaches. She endures them every day on a busy stretch of Ga. Highway 120.

The road was recently equipped with new synchronized traffic signals from the Old Norcross Road intersection outside of downtown Lawrenceville to just before Riverside Parkway. Upgraded traffic lights have also been introduced nearby on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road where Home Depot, Publix and an AMC theater anchor shopping centers.

"I think the traffic was a little better today (Wednesday) at lunch and dinner," said Gregory, who travels the stretch of road at least five times a week.

Other Gwinnett roads outfitted with synchronized traffic lights:

•Jimmy Carter Boulevard from Rockbridge Road to Best Friend Road, which includes the I-85 interchange.

•U.S. Highway 29 from Harmony Grove Road to Pleasant Hill Road.

Two similar red-light "sync" projects are in early stages. The first covers Pleasant Hill Road from the Lowe's store near Mary Street through Shorty Howell Park in Duluth, including the traffic-choked intersections around Gwinnett Place mall, Wal-Mart and Asian grocery store Super-H Mart.

Intersections on Satellite Boulevard from Pleasant Hill Road through Old Norcross Road East are also included.

More synchronized red lights are in the works for the Norcross area on Buford Highway from Langford Road to Jimmy Carter Boulevard. Upgraded lights are also being added on Jimmy Carter Boulevard from Buford Highway to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

The red-light improvements, known officially as "traffic signal optimization projects," are an important part of "Fast Forward," Gov. Sonny Perdue's $15.5 billion spending plan to battle gridlock.

Additional traffic signal upgrades will be cranked up this year across metro Atlanta, said Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman David Spear.

Traffic control is complicated business. One problem is that roads keep getting busier.

For instance, a new 25-acre shopping center is under way on Ga. 120 at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road - right where the traffic lights have recently been synchronized.

"It's not a simple process," Spear said. "It's an important part of the plan, but just one small step."