By Jean Cole
Motorists who use the five-way intersection near the Farmers Market in Athens will soon see it turned into a 4-way stop and a one-way street.
Athens City Council members voted 4-0 Monday to convert the signalized intersection at South Houston and Brownsferry streets to a four-way stop and turn West South Street into an eastbound one-way. Though the change is scheduled for Jan. 7, 2013, it could take longer. The city will keep residents posted, Mayor Ronnie Marks said.
The change came about mainly to improve safety at a signalized intersection where some motorists speed through the area to beat the red light. City officials had looked at converting the intersection to a five-way stop but they determined that would not be possible due to the configuration and setback of the roads. They opted for converting West South Street to an eastbound one-way to reduce traffic into the intersection from busy South Jefferson Street.
Although residents have complained about speeding at the intersection over the years, the inability to repair the traffic signal finally brought about the change.
Public Works Director James Rich had told the council last month the current signal needed repair but parts were no longer available. Replacing the signal would cost approximately $20,000.
Removing the signal and installing stop signs would be cheaper and, hopefully, reduce speeding on Houston and Brownsferry streets.
In asking the council to approve the change, South Houston Street resident and Planning Commissioner members Rick Johnson said he had been seeking an improvement at the intersection for nine years. He said residents are looking for safe neighborhoods in which to raise children and enjoy outdoor activities. He suggested the city consider implementing a citywide residential speed limit rather than have limits that vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.
“No residential speed limit should be higher than 25 miles per hour,” he said.
Also Monday, City Council members took the following action:
• Held a public hearing on a request by the new owner of Piggly Wiggly on U.S. 31 to sell alcohol;
• Held a public hearing on a request by the new owner of Tanner Chevron on Huntsville-Browns Ferry Road to sell alcohol;
• Approved an ordinance granting a franchise for bus service to Anchor Tours Inc., allowing the company to use city streets;
• Approved an ordinance granting a franchise for charter limousine service to Suski’s Limo LLC;
• Approved a resolution to confirm the costs of clearing weeds, grass and brush at homes on Levert Avenue, $625; Winston Drive, $418; Grace Avenue, $503; and Acorn Hill Circle, $625. These costs will be placed as liens on these properties so the city can eventually collect what it spent to abate overgrowth. City Attorney Shane Black said the work required not only grass cutting but also additional workers and bush hogging due to the overgrowth. He also said the state Legislature is working on a bill that would speed up the process of trying to recoup money from property owners who fail to cut overgrowth; and
• Approved a resolution to pay $16,500 to Community Designs Solutions for Professional Services for the city’s future land-use and development plan. This was an amendment to the budget. Athens Utilities will pay $5,500 and the city’s general fund will pay $11,000.