SOPERTON, Ga. (WSAV) – Thursday’s bridge crash on Interstate 16 brought a major influx of traffic through surrounding small towns.
Westbound traffic on the interstate reopened Friday evening and eastbound lanes are expected to be back open by midnight.
But for Soperton, with a population of just over 3,000, a quick drive across town has become a 15-minute trip.
“It’s extremely congested,” said Soperton City Clerk Thomas Shepherd. “Every intersection, every major road is clogged, and now the side streets are also clogged because people are finding ways to get around.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) set up a second detour through Adrian in an effort to lessen traffic impacts. Even still, herds of cars and 18-wheelers were sent through small communities not used to heavy traffic.
“I hate to say avoid the town but…there’s really not a whole lot of way to do that,” Shepherd said, adding, “Not unless you go about 30 or 45 miles out of your way.”
There are three major roads that run through Soperton, and all of them have been congested. The city clerk estimates traffic has been 20 times heavier than on a normal day.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t helped local businesses.
“Nobody’s stopping,” Shepherd explained. “They’re getting through town as fast as they can and many of the businesses have just closed.
“We have a restaurant right over here that’s closed that’s normally very busy on Friday.”
For Soperton residents, the city clerk suggests staying off the roads as long as the detour lasts.
“The streets are going to be clogged,” he said.
Shepherd says the city has been in contact with the governor, state police and GDOT who expect traffic to die down in the coming days.