COVINGTON — The Covington City Council installed permanent stop signs on the south side of the Square in an effort to slow traffic coming into the area, and is now looking at ways to slow or deter traffic, especially large trucks, from going through the Square.
The council voted in April to make the stop signs, which were installed in March, permanent following concerns from residents about drivers speeding into and out of downtown Covington. The signs are at the intersections of Conyers at Monticello and Church streets, and Reynolds at Monticello and Church streets.
But complaints about large trucks speeding on Monticello into and out of the downtown area and endangering pedestrians and other drivers have the council looking at ways to slow down and/or require the trucks to use other routes.
At the council’s work session on June 3, City Manager Leigh Anne Knight said the results of two weekly traffic studies done in May on Monticello Street show an average of 82,000 vehicles a week using the road, with 88 being large trucks.
“It is pretty consistent with the number of cars and trucks going through there on a regular basis every week,” Knight said. “Approximately 1 percent of the total number of vehicles were large trucks.”
The city has installed signage on Monticello Street prohibiting large trucks from entering the downtown area if they do not have business around the Square. Violators could be fined up to $500.
Councilman Josh McKelvey noted that even if 20 percent of the trucks were making deliveries, that still leaves 50 trucks a week that could be fined $500 each.
But Knight noted that in order for the city to implement its ordinance, similar signage has to be placed on Ga. Highway 36 before it turns into Monticello Street at the intersection with Ga. Highway 142 (the Covington Bypass). She said the Georgia Department of Transportation has to install those signs and has promised the city they are working on it.
“Once those signs are placed, then the police can write tickets all day long,” Knight said. “I know they are now giving warnings and I know they are telling those people they can’t do this. But I think they feel pretty comfortable that the largest number of them are one and done — they’ll drive through, realize it is the wrong way, and won’t do it again. But that may not be the case.”
Police Chief Stacey Cotton added that the drivers are just following GPS directions.
“Most of these people are making deliveries in this area, and their GPS is bringing them through there,” Cotton said. “Some of it will actually change with the signs, but you know how the technology is not always perfect.”
Knight added that the city’s GIS department is now working with Google Maps to correct the mapping process to show going through the downtown area will be illegal.
Mayor Ronnie Johnston said the data on the number of trucks passing through is great, and he wants to see how the signage will work before they actually start fining drivers.
“What I would like to do is get the GDOT sign put up before Ga. Highway 142,” he said, “and give it a month or two and re-test to see if we made a dent with the big trucks.”
But the mayor also noted that the speed limit on the road, which is 45 mph inside city limits until reaching Lifepointe Nazarene Church, is still too high for vehicles coming into the city.
“I’d like for us to consider knocking 10 mph off the speed limit as soon as they get past the bypass intersection,” he said. “We need to slow some of that stuff down.”
Cotton noted that while the speed limit can be reduced, they will have to get GDOT approval so that the Police Department can keep its radar permits for Monticello Street.
Mayor Johnston instructed Knight and Cotton to look more into the possibility of reducing the speed limit.