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Work on new traffic control center begins

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's dream of controlling traffic from one room will be one step closer, when officials break ground on a Department of Transportation facility today.

The Winder Highway facility will house various maintenance crews, sign and paint shops, but will also become home to Gwinnett's Traffic Control Center.

The county's current center, established before the 1996 Olympics, is somewhat out of service, according to Chief Signal Engineer Chuck Bailey.

Bailey said the county is experiencing some problems with the technology, and with a more advanced center opening in about a year, there is a debate going on as to whether the county should upgrade.

After all, Bailey said the center's usefulness is somewhat limited.

About half of the county's nearly 600 traffic lights are hooked into the traffic management system but few cameras are operational.

That will change dramatically in the next year, he said.

Construction is under way to add fiber optic cables to connect lights on

•Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from Holcomb Bridge to Rogers Bridge Road

•Ga. Highway 20 from Lawrenceville to Interstate 985

•Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road from Ga. Highway 120 to U.S. Highway 23

Video upgrades are taking place along Lawrenceville Highway from Lawrenceville to Jimmy Carter Boulevard and then up Jimmy Carter to Holcomb Bridge and then the Chattahoochee River.

Work will begin soon on another project to connect lights along Ga. Highway 124 from U.S. Highway 78 to Ga. Highway 8.

Those projects, Bailey said, will add 40 to 50 additional cameras to the county's network.

He envisions about 75 to 80 percent of the county's traffic signal network to be operational from one Lawrenceville location in the next several years.

"We're hoping the new center can function as the DOT's command post," Bailey said. "We really see people eventually accessing it on the Web. We could at least let folks on the routes know what's going on."

Intelligent Transportation Systems, where signal timings can be adjusted by engineers at a command post, were envisioned in metro Atlanta before the Olympics came here in 1996. According to DOT Deputy Director Kim Conroy, the county has been working for more than five years on the connections, which he hopes will come on line about the same time the new building opens next year.

Other projects being designed include connections along Ga. Highway 120 from Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road to Ga. Highway 124 through Lawrenceville, along the entire length of Old Norcross Road from Ga. 120 to Satellite Boulevard and along Beaver Ruin Road from Buford Highway to Lawrenceville Highway. Design will begin soon on another project along Satellite Boulevard from Beaver Ruin to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

"This facility has been adequate for what we've had in the field, but this has outlived its usefulness," Conroy said. "We're looking at different uses with the technology available."

The DOT central maintenance facility is expected to cost $4.7 million and open in May of 2007.

Conroy said the center at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center will remain in place for DOT's administrative staff to use the equipment.

IF YOU GO

•What: groundbreaking on DOT central maintenance facility

•When: 2 p.m. Tuesday

•Where: the site of the future DOT Central Maintenance Facility, 620 Winder Highway, Lawrenceville, GA 30045