The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

June 19, 2014

City proposes changes to create pedestrian-friendly downtown

ATHENS — Hoping to improve both the look and safety of 18 downtown intersections, Public Works Director James Rich gave City Council members some ideas to consider over the next six to eight weeks.

During a recent work session, he proposed adding landscaped curb extensions and striping at all four quadrants of these intersections to improve pedestrian safety, ensure the efficiency of the intersections and beautify the downtown in the process.

About 18 months ago, the city commissioned a downtown traffic study, Rich said. The study, done by Skipper Consulting Inc. of Birmingham, covered the Courthouse Square and areas one block from the Square, specifically within the area bordered on the east by Clinton Street, on the south by Green Street, on the west by Houston Street, and on the north by Hobbs Street.

“We studied to see if traffic signals were warranted, and there are three parameters used to determine that, including accident data, speed information and traffic volume,” Rich said.

The results of the study told officials where traffic signals were needed and where they were not. With that information, city officials designed this concept, which the council will consider after getting input from businesses and the public.

The cost for the upgrades would not be “enormous,” Rich said, because it only involves “extending curbs and gutters, adding some landscaping to those extensions as well as some striping for crosswalks.

By removing some unwarranted traffic signals, the city saves money without compromising safety, he said.

“With signals, just the operational cost — not including replacement — is about $2,000 a year,” Rich said Wednesday. “Many of the signals in the downtown are the old, mechanical signals that have been there since the late ‘50s and ‘60s. They are obsolete and we can’t get parts for them. To resignalize them (buy new signals), the budget would be about $150,000.”

Rich’s proposal calls for reworking four intersections in the first phase, with the remaining 14 intersections being improved as money allows. Using city employees to do the work would lower the cost, he said. Here is what is proposed in the first phase:

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