Post Road in west Forsyth is one of the most traveled roads in the county, meaning lots of traffic and accidents. Residents living in the area have been especially galvanized about road safety as of late, following an August accident involving 16-year-old Zoe Ordway, who was seriously injured when making a left turn from Bentley Road onto Post Road (Hwy. 371) resulting in multiple broken bones and requiring surgery.
At a town hall meeting at Midway Park’s Community Center on Wednesday, officials with GDOT, Forsyth County, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and members of Forsyth County’s legislative delegation to the Georgia General Assembly met with the public to address plans for Post and surrounding roadways and to hear their concerns.
What are the current plans?
Near the end of the meeting, state Sen. Greg Dolezal said the only answer to the road’s traffic woes would be the eventual widening of Post Road. Current plans are split into two phases: Hwy. 9 to Kelly Mill Road, set to start work in 2028, and Kelly Milly Road to Hwy. 20 starting in 2035.
Though lawmakers and commissioners have supported moving that date up, the decision ultimately falls to GDOT since it is a state route.
Though widening appears to be a ways off, there are some plans to combat issues on the road, particularly by controlling traffic on county-owned roads Bentley and Pittman roads.
“[Based on information from FCSO,] Bentley Road is not close to signalization. Pittman Road meets signalization,” said Brandon Kirby, District 1 engineer for GDOT. “Once those two studies were complete, we started working with the county on a partnership.”
At a recent meeting, county commissioners approved $14,850 toward plans for the new traffic signal on Pittman.
A project will also be done to “increase the size of the existing concrete island on the south side of Bentley Road” to eliminate left turns from Bentley onto Post Road.
“Taking that left turn away reduces conflict points, and it reduces some of the severe crashes,” Kirby said. “That is the department’s recommendation.”
The elimination of the left-turn lane was not especially popular with attendees in the audience, who said it would move the conflict area for wrecks to somewhere else along Post Road and would create U-turn issues for those who wanted to go north.
What do the numbers say?
Between GDOT and FCSO, there was a good bit of data on the roadway presented during the meeting.
According to information given out at the meeting, so far this year on Post Road there have been 242 citations given, 136 traffic warnings, 502 traffic stops and 92 accidents.
“We drive our staff enforcement based on data,” said Sheriff Ron Freeman. “We’re looking for drunk drivers. We’re looking for accidents that we can prevent. When we look at an accident, we look at causation, what caused an accident. What was the likely cause? Was it speed, impaired driving, was it people running red lights?”
Freeman said the road sees a relatively low number of speeders. Instead, traffic on the road, he said, sometimes leads drivers trying to turn onto the road to grow frustrated and try to make a turn when they don’t always have space.
“Bluntly, from an enforcement standpoint, all I can do is have a deputy sitting at that intersection right then standing there, and honestly, that person will never pull out. They’ve got to wait until they have double the distance they truly need. It’s really difficult,” he said.
Ordway family comments
As Post Road has come into heightened focus following Zoe Ordway’s accident, both she and her mother, Trish, spoke about their concerns on the road.
Since the accident, more than $11,000 has been raised for a recovery fund and more than 10,000 have signed an online petition to increase safety on the road.
Zoe detailed the wreck, including her father seeing her but being unable to help and fearing for her life.
“The people who are in accidents, we feel that we’re looked at as [a statistic] and actual people who been through a traumatic experience,” she said, later adding. “After my car stopped, I was sitting watching cars drive by and I was really scared no one was going to stop.”
Zoe said she was not in favor of eliminating the left turn on Bentley and had a question for those making road decisions.
“I want to ask you a question, and that’s basically simply, ‘Do all of us matter? Do we matter enough to go out and make you want to go out and do something?’” Zoe said.
Near the ending of the meeting, her mother, Trish, spoke about her experience with the wreck from a parent’s perspective and said wrecks at the intersection were common.
“This hits home with me, obviously, because she is my only child. I almost lost her, and it’s funny because there was an accident that happened at like the same spot the next day,” Trish said. “The ICU nurse that held her hand was in an accident there five years ago and lives in my subdivision. My neighbor that used to babysit her had an accident at that intersection. It’s not taken lightly.
“Her friend, maybe three weeks after her accident, was hit there. It’s not because we’re doing left-hand turns.”
Part of the issues with planning for Post Road is that it is a state route while surrounding roads are under the county.
Responding to a question from the audience, Dolezal and Forsyth County Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson said the county taking over the road has been brought up.
“It has been in this cycle of going on and off the state [route] designation, I think, four times… it is under consideration. We have been having the conversation. I am not prepared to make any sort of announcement, but there is an ongoing dialogue about why this is a state road,” Dolezal said. “It does not meet most of the designations that a state road would have.”
Semanson said they could request to expand the scope of the Pittman Road intersection to include a U-turn for drivers if the Bentley left turn went away, but Semanson said there were some challenges, including space for trucks to safely make the turn.
“It’s not today or tomorrow that [Post Road is] going to be coming off the state route system, but it is something we have discussed,” she said. “One of the things that we have talked about is… funding.”
She said safety discussions with the state would be ongoing.