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Engineers, employees prepare to brave Masters traffic

News 12 at six o'clock -- March 19, 2010

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- The signs are up, the parking is set and around Augusta, it's clear that Masters is just around the corner.

But for some people, that means one thing:

"Traffic. The crazy traffic," says Patricia Coleman.

Patricia comes to work on Washington Road every morning. Her job will switch to shorter hours that week, so employees won't have to drive in the thick of the traffic.

"I'll probably leave an hour and a half earlier," she says. "It's going to be a hassle."

And at Richmond County's traffic engineering department, plans are underway to make that "hassle" not as frustrating.

"Our priority is to keep Washington Road flowing," says Steve Cassell, assistant director of traffic engineering. "If Washington Road flows, everything flows."

For the past few years, the stretch of I-20 at Washington Road has been under construction during Masters week, blocking off exit ramps and backing up traffic.

But now that the work is done, that means better access to and from Washington Road, and less congestion.

"With the barriers down and the extra lane, we feel we can keep I-20 flowing a lot better," Cassell says.

He advises that the best option is to find another route and avoid Washington Road altogether. He says the heaviest traffic times are determined by tee times and who's on the course.

Bill Thompson has worked on Washington Road for 13 years during Masters, and says his best shortcut is through Alexander Drive.

"If you know the routes to get in and out, it's not that bad," he says.

Cassell recommends taking Riverwatch Parkway to get downtown, or for drivers heading to the course. But he does have advice for those who absolutely can't avoid Washington Road:

"Be patient," he laughs. "Be patient, you'll get there. It will flow."

"You gotta do what you gotta do," Patricia adds. "I mean, we have to work."

The traffic engineering department is still finalizing plans for directing and routing traffic. Those will be released at the end of this month.

Cassell says they will also be putting several electronic marquee boards along the major highway stretches. They were used last year, but they expect to have even more in place this year. The signs should go up next week.

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