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Editor’s note: GDOT’s bungled communication created confusion about Scott Boulevard project

Crime and public safety Decatur Editor's Pick

Editor’s note: GDOT’s bungled communication created confusion about Scott Boulevard project

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At Decaturish, our No. 1 goal is to provide you with timely and accurate news. We employ a variety of methods to accomplish this, talking to multiple sources and checking public records.

But when it comes to state transportation projects, the source we rely upon the most is the Georgia Department of Transportation. They are the entity that plans and executes projects on state roads. Local officials can only plan around it.

Unfortunately, GDOT gave us bad information on Sunday when we asked about the agency’s plans to close the intersection of Scott Boulevard and North Decatur Road. For the record, GDOT has taken full responsibility for the snafu and has apologized to me.

But because the information spread so quickly on social media, I felt it necessary to explain to readers how this happened.

I will walk you through how the story developed on our end. On Sunday afternoon, my phone began buzzing after someone made a post on Nextdoor linking to the Georgia 511 site, a website that usually has up to date information about GDOT projects. The site said that Scott Boulevard at North Decatur Road would be closed in both directions Monday through Thursday of this week from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. If that were the case, it would severely disrupt the commutes of thousands of people.

I was a little confused because normally a project like that would result in significant advance notice. I reached out to my contacts in law enforcement.

The local police departments didn’t seem to know anything about it, which was also odd. If there was going to be a major traffic disruption, it would make sense that local police departments would be made aware of it so they could plan for it.

I did my best to report the story with the facts I had. A GDOT spokesperson told me that the project information on the Georgia 511 site was generally accurate and promised to get more info. Then GDOT sent out a press release late Sunday evening that said the entire intersection would be closed. I published a story at that time and distributed it through our email list.

On Monday morning, the GDOT spokesperson said the project would only consist of intermittent lane closures. I updated the story, and sent it to our email list again.

A few hours later, GDOT said the project was cancelled and that updates about the traffic signal loops project would be provided in the near future. At that point, I decided to stop sending out story updates to avoid further confusion. I also removed the story from our Facebook page where it had been shared more than 100 times.

The GDOT spokesperson said the department strives for accuracy, but says mistakes do happen.

“I do apologize for the inconvenience but we send out numerous traffic interruption reports a day,” the spokesperson said. “Rarely are they wrong. Occasionally an accident or miscommunication it going to happen when you consider the sheer volume of notifications we send out and the variable nature of construction projects.”

We definitely understand that mistakes happen and that there are times in the course of reporting news that a correction is necessary.  We did our best to get this story right. But we got some bad information from an official source about a story that our readers wanted more information about so they could plan their Monday morning commute.

If there is a silver lining, it’s that this project isn’t happening this week and a busy intersection will be operating normally. We will let you know if that changes. Hopefully the story will stick this time.

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