Decatur Traffic Signal Upgrade Project Pushed Back To 2017

In discussing the coming North McDonough Streetscape Improvement project at Monday’s Decatur City Commission meeting — which Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon sounded sure would happen next summer (You may recall that Decatur first secured $1.77 million grant funding for this project way back in April 2010) — he mentioned a couple of other items that may be of interest…

1.  The traffic signal upgrades that Decatur is working with DeKalb County to implement has been pushed back two years.  When I spoke with the City Manager last summer she said that the timeline had installation happening late 2014/early 2015. Mr. Saxon mentioned at Monday’s meeting that the project isn’t likely to be implemented until 2017.  Past Citizen Surveys have shown that traffic signal timing is one of the most common transportation-related complaints in Decatur.

2.  All of Howard Avenue is part of CSX’s right-of-way.  Did you know that?  I didn’t.

34 thoughts on “Decatur Traffic Signal Upgrade Project Pushed Back To 2017”


    1. I thought the same thing – two more years to get signals changed!

      Can we secede from Dekalb county? Their government is like the poster child of all the libertarian talking points about bloated government (on a local level.)

      How exactly is “all of Howard” a CSX ROW? Do they own the PATH also?

      CSX and Dekalb county….way to put me in a bad mood this morning.

      1. The CSX right of way does not necessarily reflect ownership. In fact, their ROW actually extends almost 3 feet into my front yard. Not that they would necessarily enforce it but, if I chose to plant a hedge along there, they could theoretically insist that I remove it.

        So yes, the PATH is also in their ROW which is why the segment through Decatur was such a pain to build. Anything that happens within their ROW is subject to their review and approval (or denial).

        1. Also, you might be surprised to learn that there is a huge stretch of railway (from Atlanta to Chattanooga) that CSX doesn’t own. They lease it from the state of Georgia. Because railroads are so old, if you dig into the records, you’ll find all kinds of strange things.

                    1. I bet many of the hundreds of people who ride CCT buses from Marietta and points north would ride a train. Especially if it could make it through snow and they would never have to spend another night on the bus.

                    2. I dream of a train from Atlanta to Miami. I usually have this daydream as I am making the drive. A train with wi-fi, and a bar car.

                    3. It seems like a train to Chattanooga would be easier since the state already owns the tracks. It would be great if it would continue to Nashville. Lots of buses and vans carry passengers between Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta every day already. A passenger train headed to Charlotte would also be nice. Lots of business travelers and commuters would use both.

              1. Passenger rail that traversed rural areas would vastly improve the quality of life for people living in those areas, giving them better access to health care centers, for one thing.

                1. Unfortunately, most folk in rural areas don’t want rail because they’ve been convinced that it’ll usher in the inner city thugs, who’ll take the train to come steal their TVs & whatnot.

                  1. I wonder how true that is, any more. People in “the other Georgia” certainly don’t want to spend a penny on mass transit for the urban/metro areas but that’s because it doesn’t directly benefit them. The only way they have to get around is by private vehicle, so they need good roads. But they got no taxis, so anybody who can’t drive (or doesn’t have a car) is good and stuck. I do wonder what folks in southwest Georgia would think about the possibility of using the train to get from where they live to where their doctors are (not to mention better shopping).

            1. Because the rails are owned and operated to make money in transporting cargo. Passenger lines don’t make money, and create a significant complication to planning utilization of rail capacity (you can’t park a passenger car at a rail yard for X hours to optimize total system yield).

              I did some a graduate analysis of Amtrak’s Accela line 12 years ago, and was surprised to see that there are not ANY passenger rail systems globally that are fully self-funded or profitable. They all require government subsidies. There ARE profitable routes, but governments usually require that unprofitable routes are maintained to provide broad transit infrastructure.

              I would love to have access to efficient rail for regional travel, but that will not/cannot happen without government funding. With the rise of plug in cars with limited range, the time may be coming soon to revisit rail as a transportation infrastructure where government should invest.

              1. IMO there’s not been a time in the past 100 years when we should not have considered gov’t investment in passenger rail. Gov’t subsidy of highways at the expense of other forms of transportation was one of the biggest boondoggles of the 20th century. Here’s hoping it doesn’t last long enough to be on the short list for the 21st. My grandparents and great-grandparents, who were elderly in the 1930s-50s, had an easier time getting around in the rural South than did my parents who reached their elder years in ’80s and ’90s.

                1. I can’t remember whom to attribute it to, but I recently came across this quote in a news article, that went something like this: “If you’re in your 50s or 60s and live in the suburbs or beyond, you should be more concerned about how you’re going to get around in your 80s than whether SS and Medicare are going to be there.”

              2. I read this article in the Economist a few years ago that was highly informative on the “why” – Basically, US railways are highly optimized for freight, Europe’s are highly optimized for passengers. Apparently the two don’t mix very well.

                http://www.economist.com/node/16636101

                I do wonder if Europe has a similar model of track ownership by railroads that the US does. The railroads here have a lot of historically granted power over such discussions.

                Sadly (to me), riding MegaBus to New Orleans or Washington DC from Atlanta is less expensive and likely more convenient than riding the train aka AmTrak. Example: Atlanta to DC Union Station this Saturday. Megabus — 2 trips/day, 12 hours, $70. AmTrak, 1 trip, almost 14 hours, $178. And the Atlanta MegaBus leaves from a MARTA station.

                1. Not disputing the fact that European railways favor passenger traffic over freight, but the nationalization of railways in Europe is the reason why they have maintained a system that works. From the history of the French national railway SNCF:
                  1937

                  A SINGLE NETWORK HEADED BY THE FRENCH STATE

                  One hundred and ten years after the first rail line opened in France, trains were powering the nation’s economic growth. Yet by 1920, all of the rail companies were losing money—and by 1936 they were 37 billion francs in the red.
                  Nationalization was the only solution. And on 31 August 1937, the groundwork was laid for SNCF—Société national des chemins de fer français—under an agreement approved by legislative decree. France’s big five rail companies merged into a single network to be operated by the French State for a periodof 45 years. Their merger was symbolized by a logo featuring the new acronym as four intertwined letters.

                  As others have said, all forms of transportation – car, bus, train, air – are subsidized by the government. In the US we chose to favor road-based travel over rail and we have reaped what we sowed. Getting the genie back in the bottle is hard since the RRs who own the track (that was heavily subsidized by the government while the system was being built) can and do make money on freight.

  1. Well, that’s just around the corner! I leave Decatur for work around 5:30 a.m. each day and frequently sit at one light after another with no other cars present in either direction. We joke that it can take 15 minutes to get from one side of the tracks to the another. Reminds me of the “Boarding a Flight” scene in MEET THE PARENTS with Ben Stiller where he is the only one waiting to board but the flight attendant will not let him board until they call his row.

  2. Does that mean I can’t drive down Howard without permission from CSX, or can I consider that permission is implied since there isn’t a road block?

  3. City leaders should discontinue calling Decatur walkable until all the crossings along the Dequator are addressed. In 12 years I’ve heard a variety of excuses. Candler, McDonough, Commerce, they are all terrible for pedestrians. When you ask why, the buck is always passed.

    1. +1. Those intersections are an embarrassment. Forcing residents to play chicken across a major road is the antithesis of walkability.

  4. So let’s take bets on which excuse DeKalb County will use to justify a delay of two to three years:

    1. TSPLOST was defeated a few years ago, so that pushed out our timeline.
    2. We used up all the ARRA money repaving DeKalb Avenue (oh, wait, maybe not).
    3. We’re too busy paving North Decatur Road past the hospital (again).
    4. With all the road diets going on, we figured everybody in Decatur and coming to Decatur would simply bike or walk, and as we all know, cyclists and pedetrians don’t pay attention to signals in Decatur anyway.
    5. We’re waiting for the new MARTA line from Emory to the (honorary) Decatur Wal*Mart to lessen traffic congestion.
    6. We got a phone call from jail: “Nothing gets done until I get back!”
    7. Stop signs and roundabouts will eliminate the need for synchronized traffic lights.
    8. Decatur is part of DeKalb County?
    9. It can’t be important to Decatur if y’all haven’t even held your first “Synchronized Traffic Light Festival” yet.
    or, simply,
    10. We really don’t know what we’re doing.

  5. I wonder if there isn’t any legal action Decatur could take? Alternate means of funding?
    Sitting around waiting doesn’t seem like much of a response.

    1. “Sitting around waiting doesn’t seem like much of a response.”

      Neither does getting into a pissing match with DeKalb County over what amounts to an inconvenience. If we raise a fuss, the traffic lights installation will likely be delayed even longer. You can add vengeful to the list of adjectives describing the current administration in the county.

  6. Where’s Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne when you need them? They could do in a day what 100 Dekalb county employees could do in a week.

    1. My favorite post today.

      I never can decide which story I love more, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, The Little House, or Katy and the Big Snow. I’ll bet Virginia Lee could have written a neat story about Decatur and the Developers or City Schools of Decatur and the Big Baby Boom, complete with neat drawings and characters. She captured the essence of American community life in a growing, ever more sophisticated and technological world.

  7. So we have to wait a few more years to save 2 minutes and 11 seconds getting across town in a car? Wah. Will we survive?

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