Posted on Jun 21, 2007

A sign marked “Exit” planned in the 1996 construction of an HOV ramp from Interstate 75 onto Northside Drive was never installed on an overhead pole, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) learned after obtaining a memo from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The ramp was built for the Summer Olympic Games and last March 2, was the site of a bus crash that killed the driver, his wife and five baseball players from Ohio’s Bluffton University.

Engineers Forego ”Exit” Sign At Ramp

Highway engineers from GDOT contended the “Exit” sign would not fit on the installed pole. Had they made a support long enough to hold two signs, it would have obstructed other signage ahead on the interstate, they said. The only sign on the pole at the exit read, “Northside Drive,” never telling motorists the HOV ramp was indeed an exit. The sign that did read, “Exit” was posted a half-mile before Northside Drive.

“Some people don’t realize what we went through in that section of DOT,” said Sam Ziegler, who was part of the design team for the signs. “We had unbelievable deadlines,” he said, regarding completion of the project before the start of the 1996 Olympics in the city.

According to the AJC, Fred Hanscom, a consultant for highway signage, said, “Left-hand exits are rare and drivers don’t expect them. Southbound I-75 drivers get no indication until they reach the Northside Drive exit, after rounding a curve, that bearing left means leaving the highway.”

Safety Measures Added Since Fatal Crash

Since the fatal accident, crews painted the word, “EXIT” on the ramp roadway, enlarging the stop sign at the top of the ramp and repainting white lines yellow to indicate the cut-off for the exit lane to the left, the AJC reported.

Marion Waters, director of the office that approved the sign’s absence at the exit ramp, said, “If 100,000 people that same day went by that location and didn’t make an error, then the indication was that the sign wasn’t needed. You’re on the cusp here. ‘But did you do what was appropriate or a reasonably attentive, alert driver who was accustomed to driving on a roadway?’ And the answer has to be, ‘Yes,’” he added.