Update: SR 17 at Exit 173 in Lavonia Back Open; Police Directing Traffic

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

17 lavonia morning wreckLanes on State Highway 17 at Exit 173 are now open, but Georgia Department of Transportation crews continue to work to repair and re-hang the traffic lights that were taken out early this morning in a one-vehicle wreck. 

The intersection in front of the McDonalds’ at Exit 173 was shut down until mid-morning after the driver of an 18-wheeler veered right from the left-hand turn lane at the McDonalds, went across all lanes of traffic and took out the traffic light poles.

All traffic light poles in all four directions are out and power lines were in the roadway for several hours until Georgia Power Crews could clear them away.

“The crash not only took the support poles that held the signals in the air down, it also took out the computer that is the brains for all of the signals at that intersection,” said GDOT spokesperson Teri Pope. “Once the power lines are cleared off the road, it will take our crews about 45 minutes or an hour to get all of the mess out of the road and we can re-open traffic on SR17.”

One passing motorist found himself caught in the tangle of power lines.

Jim Thomason said he was driving is pick up through the intersection, when his truck caught the downed lines.

“They were waving us through and there was a small car in front of me and I had moved over and the next thing I knew my truck was up ended and it came down on the right front fender,” he said.

Thomason said the impact knocked the keys out of his ignition and EMT’s helped him find the keys in the road so they could turn the truck off.

“I just lost a son to a car accident a month ago on State Highway 172, and all of that goes through your mind, you know,” he said.

Authorities on the scene said the driver of the 18-wheeler said he was trying to make it into the McDonald’s parking lot when he suddenly blacked out.

The driver has not been identified.  He was treated at the scene and is reported to be okay.

Meanwhile, Georgia DOT crews and Georgia Power crews continue to work to fix the lights at the intersection.

“It will probably take us until mid-afternoon to get the signals repaired and operational again,” Pope said. “We have to run everything from new power to a new cabinet and hang all the signals again. So there are going to be delays all day long even after the road is open to traffic, until we get those signals hung and operational again.”

Lavonia Police are asking motorists who normally come through that intersection to use alternate routes such as Exit 177 if you’re coming to Lavonia via the Interstate.

If you’re coming from Toccoa on SR17, you are advised to take either Hwy 145 or 106 into Carnesville and then take SR59 North to get to Lavonia.