McCULLOUGH: Time for 316 to be all it can be

Build them. Build them now — that's what I'd like to tell the DOT engineers holding a public open house on proposed interchanges along Ga. Highway 316 in Barrow County.

If you travel the road at all, you've been there: You're racing along at 65 miles per hour or better (usually better if you don't want to get run over), and then suddenly, in the middle of what should have been a limited-access freeway, you see a traffic light. And it's just turned yellow.

If you go

• What: Open house on proposed Ga. Highway 316 interchanges

• When: 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday

• Where: Apalachee High School, 940 Haymon Morris Road, Winder

In a nanosecond you have to consider your speed, your distance from the light and your chances of stopping without throwing everything in your car through the windshield, along with checking your rearview to see if you can read the intentions of the guy six inches off your bumper. You have two choices: try to stop or try to beat it.

If you try to beat it, you'd better pray you do. T-boning a school bus at 70 mph isn't a good way to start your day.

So you try to stop. When you do you wish everything in your car was tethered or nailed down. Nothing is, of course, and the laws of physics take over. Coffee sloshes out everywhere. Laptops, papers, phones and groceries all go in the floorboard. Your forehead juuuust kisses the steering wheel ever so lightly, and then you stop.

And then you and three other lanes of traffic wait while a garbage truck, a guy on a bike and a '72 pickup towing a trailer made out of pieces of Noah's Ark putt-putt-putt their way across what, as I said, should have been an interstate-style highway.

Then you wait some more, staring at the light. No more cars are coming. You're just sitting there with 30 or 40 other vehicles — on a freeway — waiting on a traffic light to change. You find yourself marveling at the ridiculousness. If you're me, you often wonder, "Who wrought such a thing?"

I'm not a traffic engineer. I'm sure designing roads is more complicated than a person would guess, and I'm sure that design is hampered by available funds. But I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone ever thought making Ga. 316 a high-speed obstacle course was a good idea. For the entertainment value? "Let's let everyone go really fast, and then make them have to screech to a halt every mile or so. And we'll watch and we'll laaaaugh."

There are no traffic lights on I-85 or I-20 because red lights and interstate speeds simply do not mix. But we've got them on 316.

Then there's also this bit of nonsense. If you travel the road late at night, which I often do because of my work schedule, the lights are timed at certain roads the opposite of the way they should be, forcing any vehicles traveling on 316 to stop and wait for them to change.

At Ga. Highway 53 (one of the roads for a proposed interchange), Patrick Mill Road and Carl-Bethlehem Road, the lights are almost constantly red to traffic on Ga. 316 late at night. Nearly every night I have to stop at these intersections for no reason other than the light turned red. No cars are trying to get across 316. The light just changes, seemingly at a whim, almost like someone is taunting me. I am often the only vehicle within sight in any direction, and yet I sit there, mad, waiting on a stupid traffic light to change.

On a @#$% freeway!

The proposals call for interchanges at Highways 53, 11, and 81. There is no funding. I say find funding and build them. Charge us a penny sales tax and build them now.

Whether it was intended to be or not, the road is a freeway. It's time to make it look — and drive — like one.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.