In the early morning hours Tuesday, traffic engineers, police and the occasional helicopter pilot gathered in Westside High School’s auditorium to watch thousands of Masters Tournament ticket-holders flood Richmond County’s roadways on their way to the Augusta National.
Ten slow-scan cameras fed a steady stream of images showing bumper to bumper traffic to flat-screen TVs set up inside the makeshift base off Washington Road.
It’s from there team members monitor the traffic level and adjust signal times to let more cars through, according to Richmond County Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell. But keeping the public abreast of any changes is their most important task.
“The more information you can get out to the public, the better they can make route decisions,” Mr. Cassell said.
Traffic officials said Tuesday that, for the most part, traffic was running smoothly.
“They’re a little better than this time yesterday,” Georgia Department of Transportation Traffic Engineer James “Jimmy” Smith said Tuesday. “More people seem to be using the right-turn lanes into Stanley (Drive).”
The team continues to adjust to changes brought on by the introduction of a 2,500 space parking lot off Stanley Drive this year. An electronic sign was recently moved to let drivers know there are now two right turn lanes into the parking lot, Mr. Cassell said.
It has been about 10 years since Mr. Smith and other engineers first sat down with Richmond County officials and convinced them to let the DOT help monitor Masters traffic. Before, signal control was the responsibility of sheriff’s deputies, who stood near the lights and changed times manually.
“They couldn’t coordinate, because they weren’t able to see the other signal,” said Mr. Smith, who remembers traffic so bad that at one point in the early 1990s it stretched from Washington Road to the Belair Road exit on I-20.
Now, with the aid of computer software programs and up-to-date reports from Georgia State Patrol helicopters that fly over the thoroughfares, the entire corridor can be monitored and controlled, Mr. Smith said.
“A couple of weeks ago we were talking about it and I said if we do our job, nobody will know we were there, and if we don’t, everybody will know my middle name,” he said.
Adam Folk, Staff Writer