The Athens Downtown Development Authority has formally applied for funding for three projects—Clayton Street streetscape improvements, a roundabout at the North Avenue/Dougherty Street/Thomas Street intersection and a greenway along Jackson Street to the Lyndon House Arts Center—from the upcoming transportation sales tax vote in November.
The Clayton Street project was supposed to be funded by SPLOST 2011, but it’s been on hold for several years after bids came in millions of dollars too high. T-SPLOST, which is expected to raise $100 million over five years, could provide the rest of the funding.
The project will include new sidewalks and storm sewers (hopefully getting rid of Clayton’s notorious stale-beer odor), but ADDA Director of Planning and Outreach David Lynn specifically noted that it will also be an opportunity to reduce the high number of crashes on the street—237 over the past five years, almost twice as many as on Washington Street.
Most were just fender-benders, and ADDA board members could only speculate as to the reason why there have been so many: Delivery trucks unloading in the center lane? Out-of-towners unfamiliar with downtown’s one-way streets? After-2 a.m. impairment?
Suggestions include reconfiguring parking so that drivers back into spaces, which studies have shown makes it safer to pull out, or spaces that have a sharper angle. The latter idea, though, would reduce the number of on-street parking spaces, which Lynn cautioned against.
“Consumer behavior is often influenced by at least the perception that there’s going to be a parking space in front of a building,” he said. “If there’s even the slightest hesitation [about] going downtown, that’s only going to hurt us.”
As laid out in the downtown master plan, the Jackson Street greenway would carve out 40–50 feet of the government-owned parking lots at the federal building and north of Dougherty and turn them into a greenway with a wide sidewalk running past Lay Park and the Lyndon House to the railroad tracks. Some have proposed lining the greenway with art exhibitions as well, turning it into an “art walk.”
The roundabout, also suggested in the downtown master plan, would eliminate the intersection’s odd angles, reduce rush-hour congestion on North Avenue and create a gateway into downtown.
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