MOULTRIE -- It's been a long time coming but it's finally here.

There's a blinking light at the Sunset Elementary School intersection on Georgia Hwy. 319 South, and drivers best get used to it -- it started blinking caution Tuesday but the traffic signal will become fully operational next week, city officials said.

After a long, uphill battle, the Georgia Department of Transportation finally erected a traffic light at the risky intersection. Public outcry and local official support eroded GDOT's initial resistance for the light.

"It was a long time coming," Sheriff Al Whittington said.

The sheriff and the county administrator lauded the support of Rep. Richard Royal, the county commissioners and, particularly, DOT board member Billy Langdale, who convinced the DOT that a traffic light was the most economic answer out of several costly alternatives, including regrading a hill.

"I'm just proud of the DOT finally making the decision that the light was necessary. I just feel it will take a lot of the load off the officers working that intersection, especially during school hours, and certainly make it so much safer for our students, parents and staff at Sunset School," Whittington said.

"I think there were some valid concerns on DOT's part, but based on the experience with that intersection and the fact that you have a school there and the volume of traffic on the road, not only was it justified to the county and the city, but the school board was very vocal in the installation of a traffic signal there," County Administrator Brian Marlowe said.

Marlowe received numerous calls he said regarding the light's installation, and not one of them have been negative, he said.

For years, concerned parents and educators have been complaining about the game of chance they played at the intersection during the school year.

"I'm really glad the light's going to be there," Sunset bus driver Debbie Blackburn said, adding that tractor trailers seldom slow down for the intersection, especially in the afternoon.

In fact, the sheriff's office surveyed traffic there and determined the average speed through that intersection is 58 miles per hour through the school zone during school hours, Whittington said.

That's why for the past couple of years, Colquitt County law enforcement dedicated officers to handle the traffic flow at the school.

"I don't know what we would've done without the deputies there directing traffic," Sunset School Council member and parent Jennifer Partain said.

There are no plans from the county nor the city (the intersection is now within city limits) for officers to direct traffic. But the sheriff urges motorists to use extra caution through the intersection for a while.

The traffic signal was an effort on all fronts. The GDOT installed the controls, the city installed the custom-made concrete poles and guy wires, while the county will spring for the monthly utility bill, county officials said.

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