Officials want big rigs out of downtown Augusta

Local traffic officials would like to see fewer big trucks in downtown Augusta.

Shifting a major truck route from Reynolds Street to the new Palmetto Parkway could do it.

But it won't be easy.

Officials want vehicles the size of dump trucks and larger to stop going from Bobby Jones Expressway to Interstate 20 via Sandbar Ferry Road, Reynolds Street and River Watch Parkway, said Dennis Ellis, a traffic engineering technician for Augusta.

That route takes them through the narrow streets of Augusta's historic Olde Town neighborhood and past the Augusta Common, which has led to numerous angry calls from pedestrians and residents of the Port Royal condos over the years, Ellis said.

"They complain all the time about needing to get tractor-trailers off of Reynolds," he said. "And it's fully understandable."

However, forcing trucks to use the new Palmetto Parkway expansion of Interstate 520 -- which connects directly to I-20 in South Carolina -- would take an appeal to the Georgia Department of Transportation by the Augusta Commission, said Steve Cassell, a traffic engineer.

He said the idea would need more study before anything is proposed to the DOT.

"We would have to look at the impact of shifting them off Reynolds and where they would go," he said.

Even with DOT approval, trucks could still drive through part of downtown because city officials can't stop them from using state routes. Downtown, that includes portions of Broad, Fifth, Greene, 13th and Jones streets, Washington Road/Calhoun Expressway and Reynolds Street.

"The fact is we can never keep them off of a state route even though we can discourage them," Cassell said. "Unless DOT -- which I know that they won't -- says that that part of their state route system can't be used by trucks, there is no true way to prevent trucks from being in the downtown area."

Pedestrian traffic along Reynolds is expected to increase with the construction of the 139-room Hyatt Hotel and the trade, exhibit and event center at Reynolds Street and James Brown Boulevard.

Ellis said the rerouting idea is in keeping with a plan to make Reynolds Street more of a parkway and friendly for walkers.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.