HERO service may return to Coweta County
by Sarah Fay Campbell
Coweta County officials will be meeting with representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation to consider bringing the HERO motorist service back to Interstate 85 in Coweta.
HEROs — Highway Emergency Response Operators — patrol the interstates in bright yellow incident response units, complete with emergency lights and arrows to direct traffic away from stranded motorists, as well as equipment to change tires, jump start batteries, provide fuel or coolant and perform minor mechanical repairs.
They can perform first aid, offer use of a phone, push vehicles out of travel lanes and transport stranded motorists to safe areas. All for free. Motorists access the HERO service by dialing 511 in an area where the service is available. The HERO service was brought to Coweta several years ago during the Interstate 85 construction project. But when the project ended, so did the HERO service.
In August, Coweta County Commissioner Paul Poole asked his fellow commissioners to send a letter to GDOT formally requesting that the HERO service be returned to Coweta.
Last week, it was announced that the HERO service was being expanded in Douglas County. The service was previously available on Interstate 20 as far west as Thornton Road. The expansion brings it 10 miles farther into Douglas County, to State Highway 5.
That announcement begged the question of how the Coweta request was progressing.
Coweta County hadn't received any feedback from GDOT about the request.
Poole contacted GDOT officials Friday and spoke with Michael Roberson, HERO manager for GDOT.
Poole said Roberson wants Coweta to schedule a meeting and have representatives from any public safety agencies that deal with the interstate, such as the Coweta County Sheriff's Office, Newnan Police Department, and Coweta County Fire Department and EMS, as well as the 911 Center.
"That's a good start," said Poole. "I think we can put together a pretty good case for it."
At the press conference announcing the expansion into Douglas County, Roberson said that, traditionally, the service is offered only in areas that are also equipped with the Georgia Navigator cameras.
Roberson said that while the cameras stop at Thornton Road, GDOT Commissioner Keith Golden and Deputy Commissioner Todd Long challenged him to see if HERO coverage could be expanded “beyond where our eyes and ears are.”
Poole feels the HERO service is an important safety measure for the traveling public.
During the I-85 construction, he had a blow-out, and pulled off the road to change his tire. The HERO came along, pulled in behind him, directing traffic away, and quickly changed the tire. Poole hadn’t called for assistance, the HERO just happened to be traveling behind him.
Because the HEROs are equipped with air wrenches and heavy duty jacks, they can change a tire much faster than the average motorist. And the service keeps motorists out of danger.
"It's scary when you're doing that yourself," Poole said.
"I hated for it to leave" when the interstate construction ended, Poole said. "I'm just hoping that we can get it back."