Originally created 11/10/05

Buses might stop at office



Before the bus picks up riders at Target in the Augusta Exchange, it may soon be making a stopover at the Social Security Administration's new regional facility behind Best Buy.

Augusta Public Transit Director Heyward Johnson said that at the request of Social Security officials, he's trying to extend the existing Sand Hills route to include the soon-to-be-opened building.

The move is part of an overall push on his part to get realty agents and planners thinking about transit while they're building new shopping centers and businesses, as opposed to after.

The regional facility is set to open to the public Wednesday - replacing the Walton Way location - so Social Security District Manager Tommie Aaron said she hopes the bus route extension will at least be close to reality then.

Once the service starts up, Ms. Aaron expects it to be wildly popular because 40 to 50 customers a day who visit the Walton Way office ride the bus.

"I have heard from agencies concerned about the transportation issue, which is why I made an effort to take care of this," Ms. Aaron said. "(Mr. Johnson) came over and looked at the site right away, and we plan to meet again this week."

Currently, buses driving the Sand Hills route head down Agerton Lane near the movie theater, turn right on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, stop outside Target and head back out on Robert C. Daniel before returning to Walton Way Extension.

Mr. Johnson said the plan is for his drivers to go straight to the Social Security building from Robert C. Daniel, then hit Target and go back to Walton Way Extension or Wheeler Road.

"Now the issue is how exactly we'll get the bus back," he said. "That's the piece of the puzzle we need to determine."

Mr. Johnson also says he would like to add another traffic light so that the bus can make a protected left turn to get to the Social Security office.

"Left-hand turns are always bad, accidents waiting to happen for buses," he said. "That's why we make as many turns as we can at red lights."

Dennis Ellis, of the Augusta-Richmond County Traffic Engineering Department, said he sees no problem with adding a protected left-turn light at the intersection, as long as there's a designated left-turn lane as well.

"It's something we can probably handle," he said. "They just need to request it, and we'll go and take a look at it."

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.