It often takes tragic circumstances to elicit change, and elected officials in Forsyth County are hoping an accident involving a West Forsyth High School student will help get something done about dangerous intersections along Post Road.
Last week, 16-year-old Zoe Ordway was seriously injured when making a left turn from Bentley Road onto Post Road, Hwy. 371, resulting in multiple broken bones and requiring surgery.
The wreck has reawakened calls for safety measures at the intersection in the community, with more than 8,500 signing an online petition as of Friday night and more than $10,000 raised toward medical bills.
“She was actually blinded by a truck in the right-hand turn lane,” said District 27 state Sen. Greg Dolezal, who said he has visited Ordway in the hospital. “There was a truck turning off Post into Bentley, it’s 5:40 in the morning, she didn’t see the car that was being blinded that was in the main travel lane, she pulls out and she immediately gets hit.”
Dolezal said since the accident, there has been a push among local elected officials to improve safety on the road and move up the planned date of the project.
Forsyth County Commissioner Todd Levent, whose children also attended West Forsyth, said he didn’t let his kids turn left on Bentley while on the way to school and, despite his previous involvement with improving the intersection, his son was involved in a wreck when riding with a friend.
“Very rarely is there enough space between cars coming both directions where you can get out,” Levent said. “So when people see a space, I think their frustration level gets so high that they waited there so long, that they try to shoot through a spot to get in traffic that is not enough space and get in an accident.”
“I think between the county commissioners, state delegation and GDOT, the conversations I’ve been having over the last couple of weeks, there is a very concerted effort to figure out, kind of taking an all-of-the-above approach to figure out anything that can be done to expedite the widening of this road because it is beyond needed,” Dolezal said.
After a wreck last week involving West Forsyth High School student Zoe Ordway at the intersection of Bentley and Post roads, county residents began a fundraiser to help her family deal with medical bills and petition to improve safety on Post Road.
Levent said he and Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley reached out to GDOT more than six years ago when plans to widen Post Road were set for 2035.
Levent said after the $200 million transportation bond was approved by voters in 2014, work was slated to begin in 2022.
Since then, plans have changed and the plan is now to start purchasing land in 2026 and work beginning in 2028.
Levent said studies by GDOT have shown the Hwy. 371 intersection with Bentley Road, along with Pittman and Dickerson roads, do not meet their requirements for a traffic signal.
“Their concern is that when you have X amount of cars coming from a side road, that if it doesn’t get to a certain level of count over X amount of hours -- not just one hour in the afternoon and one in the mornings -- that they don’t want to back up traffic on the main road for a mile,” he said.
Previous improvements to those three intersections done earlier this decade meet state standards for a traffic light, though Levent said he would also support a roundabout if it were large enough to handle truck traffic.
One safety proposal previously offered by the state was closing the left-turn lane on Bentley.
“The fact that they’re considering closing the left turn lane, not allowing people to turn left,” Levent said, “that tells me that they believe that left turn lane, at certain times of the day, is dangerous, so why is that the solution?”
Dolezal, who said he has been involved with pushing for the widening of the Mullinax Road portion of Hwy. 371 since 2013, when he was a private citizen, maintains that all current proposals are just a Band-Aid on the issue until the road is widened, an estimated $110 million project.
“All of these projects are just a byproduct of the volume that is on that road, right now,” Dolezal said.
The widening of Post Road is being split into two phases: Hwy. 9 to Kelly Mill Road, set to start work in 2028, and Kelly Milly Road to Hwy. 20 in 2035. Dolezal said in addition to having the widening project start dates moved up, he also wants to have both projects done at once.
“Otherwise, you’re just going to create a massive bottleneck at Kelly Mill,” he said.
Dolezal said there has been some movement with the state since Ordway’s accident, including GDOT undertaking a new traffic study and looking at data on accidents along Post Road in the last five years.
“They’re basically going to heat map where the accidents were,” Dolezal said. “They’re not only going to look at that one: They’re going to look at Dickerson; they’re going to look at Pittman; they’re going to look at Kelly Mill. They’re going to take all of that data, go to the experts, take that to their engineers and come up with a list of recommended solutions.”