City officials consider rerouting Ga. 20

LAWRENCEVILLE - For years, traffic through Lawrenceville's downtown square has been a series of one-way roads. But city leaders want to bring two-way traffic back to the streets to make the area safer and more pedestrian friendly.

The city council is considering a traffic proposal that would reroute Ga. Highway 20, which is now a pair of one-way streets through the square, onto Jackson Street, a road two blocks to the east that is currently under construction. Once the single-direction Clayton and Perry streets are no longer state highways, Lawrenceville City Clerk Bob Baroni said, the city will be free to make them two-way roads.

That might eventually pave the way for all the streets in downtown Lawrenceville to have cars in both directions.

"I think it would slow it down," Baroni said. "It would make it more attractive for people to come in and shop, there wouldn't be three lanes flying."

Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said GDOT has been talking with Lawrenceville and the county about Jackson Street. But the change could still be a long way off.

The proposal is still being studied, Baroni said, so there is no guarantee that members of Lawrenceville's city council would approve the plan. Even if they did, Pope said Jackson Street must be completed and operational before the state would consider taking it over. And GDOT would want the routes to operate for six months with Jackson Street open so city leaders can see how having the road there would alter transportation choices in the area.

"It would greatly change the traffic pattern downtown," Pope said. "People would not even go around the square."

Developer Emory Morsberger doesn't think that's a problem. Morsberger said restaurant and shop owners are eager for two-way traffic that would make their businesses easier to access. City Councilman P.K. Martin said he thinks two-way streets could make the area less confusing.

"There won't be the necessity of moving cars," he said. "People would stop and shop instead of buzzing through there."

The proposal calls for sidewalks to be widened and some roads to be reduced from three lanes to two. Baroni said he would expect the changes to have a calming effect on traffic in an area where cars are sometimes clocked going 70 miles per hour.

The plans are still preliminary, but Baroni said he is optimistic that Ga. 20 will be rerouted off the square. Lawrenceville Planning and Zoning Director Brad Leonard said it will be another six weeks or so before Jackson Street is ready to open, and Baroni estimated that the proposal would not go before Lawrenceville's city council for at least six months.

Leonard said he knows of only one road plan that exists now, though others may be added to the list.

"People will look around a little bit more, see what shops we have to offer," Leonard said. "Hopefully, it will make downtown a destination."