Long-awaited bike lanes on Prince Avenue could be one step closer to reality with a proposed pilot project this fall that would install temporary bike lanes on a portion of the busy road.
“The goal of this is to engage drivers, reduce conflicts, make it safer for all users—vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists,” Diane Jackson of the ACC SPLOST office said at a June 14 work session. $4 million in sales tax revenue from SPLOST 2020 is earmarked for Prince Avenue.
During the 90-day pilot project, officials will study the impact on traffic and neighborhoods, and the feasibility of extending bike lanes all the way to Milledge Avenue. That’s where Prince ceases to be a local road and becomes a state highway under the control of the Georgia Department of Transportation. The pilot program won’t go all the way to Milledge because that would require GDOT permission, and the user group wanted to spend “a limited amount of money to determine whether the pilot is going to be successful,” Jackson said.
“We want to see how the vehicle speeds change,” she said. “We want to see how pedestrian and bicyclist safety changes. Do they feel safer when they’re using this? Then we want to know, are the cars going to divert [to side streets] and where are they going to divert?”
The pilot project will consist of restriping a quarter-mile stretch of Prince from four car lanes to two car travel lanes, a center turn lane and bike lanes on each side separated from car traffic by a buffer with a “zipper” of raised bumps. The bike lanes and buffer will be wider between Barber and Newton streets but narrow between Newton and Pulaski, where the right-of-way is not as wide. The mid-block crossing near Taziki’s would be shifted slightly to the west, allowing for cars to queue up to turn left into the 100 Prince development without blocking the crosswalk. The Prince-Pulaski intersection would get a bike box for cyclists turning left onto Pulaski and a wedge to protect people from cars turning right.
The project will cost $85,000 to install and $60,000 to remove if it’s not successful. Assuming the commission approves it Aug. 2, it would likely be installed sometime in September, with public comment periods both before and after.
Commissioner Melissa Link, who represents the neighborhoods along Prince Avenue, reacted enthusiastically. “I feel like this is something that should have happened 20 years ago, quite frankly, and I’d be willing to approve it without temporary status,” she said.
Myers referenced a failed bike-lane pilot project on Barnett Shoals Road and asked what lessons could be learned. “This is totally different,” Commissioner Russell Edwards said. Officials should be upfront about the tradeoffs to avoid a backlash, said consultant Jared Draper of Toole Design Group. Myers also said she’s concerned about three new commissioners coming on board in January and almost immediately voting on making the three-lane configuration permanent without being educated on it.
“I have high hopes for this project,” Edwards said. “People fly down this corridor. I see it anecdotally.” But Edwards won’t be around next year—the more conservative John Culpepper is taking his place after Edwards was drawn out of his district. Link and Commissioner Tim Denson, who also endorsed it, will be replaced, too.
With $2.6 million in SPLOST funds left, other projects are in the works. A user group composed of citizens and ACC staff also ranks fixing the Park Avenue-Talmadge Drive intersection as a top priority. In addition, the user group has recommended that GDOT install more mid-block crosswalks and that Athens Transit increase bus service along the corridor. GDOT has agreed to the former, Jackson said, while Athens Transit is planning to take over the Health Sciences Campus route from UGA.
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