Don’t forget the fundraiser to raise money to help get a van for Harold Williams, our wonderful accountant/musician/great guy who is confined to a wheelchair. His firm, Williams and Guined CPA, is selling $10-a-plate tickets to a barbecue at Locos Mar. 1. You can come by our new offices at 220 Prince Ave. to buy yours. Harold’s friends are also organizing a concert for this spring. Go Harold! And remember, if you want to take Harold n’ them a meal, you can sign up at takethemameal.com. Fill in the family’s last name, Williams, and the password is Harold.
Go stand outside Normal Bar on Prince Avenue in Normaltown and face the incoming traffic that zips by you. It is hard to believe how fast they’re coming, as if they were on a highway. Actually, many still are on a highway, having just driven into Athens from up toward Jefferson at 60 and 70 miles per hour, and they’re pushing it on toward downtown or the university. Get into your own car and head into town, and you’ll be kicking it, too. Prince Avenue is a racetrack, and you’ll hardly notice all the people with kids and dogs that you’re passing along the sidewalk.
The anomaly about Prince Avenue is that it is also a neighborhood street. It cuts right through the middle of what you might call downtown Normaltown—the business section—and it divides the intown neighborhoods of Boulevard and Cobbham and their business and restaurant districts.
These dual uses of Prince Avenue have always existed uneasily together, but as Boulevard and Cobbham (and their neighborhood school, Chase Street Elementary) have grown in popularity and population, concerns over traffic speed have magnified, but nobody has done anything about it.
The sticking point is that the obvious thing to do to slow Prince Avenue down and make it safer for pedestrians is to three-lane it. That’s a godsend if you’re trying to cross the street on foot with your kid and your dog, but what would it do to the traffic flow? Would it choke off downtown and kill the restaurant, club and retail business there? Would it divert a lot of traffic to Boulevard and Hill Street? How could we make such far-reaching changes without knowing the answers to those questions?
Now, Tony Eubanks, a longtime Boulevard resident who has taken an active interest in Prince Avenue over the years, has teamed up with Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works Director David Clark for an ingenious method of pre-testing these effects without cost and without getting locked into long-term changes that could prove unfeasible after all. (See Blake Aued’s story and Eubanks’ Comment.)
What a great idea! A two-week, carefully measured test that will give us some answers in real time about traffic flow and the impact on Prince Avenue, Boulevard and Hill Street as well as downtown. The best thing about it is that regardless of how you feel about three-laning, these results will give you some objective information to inform your opinion. Of course, if you don’t want to change your opinion, you may not want facts.
Tony says he’s tired of coming up with ideas and plans that never have a chance of getting implemented. That’s why David Clark is so important to this trial. His department can set it up and measure the effects. They’re the traffic experts. It is fabulous that they have signed on to this experiment. And, of course, the ACC Mayor and Commission have to approve this trial run, which is most important of all, because it cannot be done without their approval and it should not be.
Unfortunately, it sounds like Mayor Denson is going to kill the whole deal. She says she likes the idea but that she wants to postpone it until fall. It’s all set up now and ready to go with commission approval, and it can be done this spring while school is still in session. It won’t work in the fall, and it probably won’t even come up in the fall. If it’s not approved in March or April by the commission, it’s dead. But remember, the mayor controls the agenda. She’s got to put it on there for it to get a vote. It’s time to do justice to this test, and we all know that justice delayed is justice denied.