Decatur Community Transportation Plan Update Coming

I’m pretty jazzed that this is coming up again soon.  I was just thinking about my old roundabout idea the other day!  I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.  From the AJC

Decatur has recently hired a consultant to provide master planning services for updating the community transportation plan. Community input meetings should begin in late August or September.

…“Some of the things I think you’ll see with the new plan include better street crossings,” Planning Director Angela Threadgill said. “I think you’ll see enhancing of the Safe Routes to School program. We’d like to create some off-street pathways, and I think you’ll start to see sharrows [lanes for both cars and bikes] disappear. They are nationally falling out of favor.”

The final plan needs approval from the city commission. Threadgill believes the community input process should take 10 months and finish by late next spring.

Photo courtesy of DM

Decatur Set to Apply for Grant Money for “C Streets” If TIA Funding Fails

At tonight’s commission meeting, Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon will ask the Decatur City Commission to approve a $1.9 million grant application to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Center Initiative to fund improvements to “Clairemont-Commerce-Church Pedestrian Safety and Bicycle Trial Improvements.”

As Mr. Saxon lays out in his letter to the City Manager (page 14 of the meeting materials) the projected total cost of the project is $3.5 mil, of which $1.125 mil is covered by a Federal Transportation Enhancement Grant (which I don’t recall hearing about previously).

That leaves a cool $2.375 mil left to be paid for.  Currently, Decatur still has $5 million tagged in Atlanta’s transportation sales tax project list for funding this project, but if that falls through, this LCI grant is the backup plan.  Decatur would need to put up a 20% match ($475,000) to get the grant, which Mr. Saxon says will be available in the capital improvement fund balance in two years, when this project can be expected to begin.

This “ask” (as the cool kids say) comes just days before a public meeting regarding these ped/bike improvements at City Hall next Monday.

The city’s influential Transportation Plan calls for wider sidewalks and crosswalks, countdown signals for pedestrians, changes to the signal timing and traffic lanes at these intersections (Commerce @ Clairemont can be seen above).  The plan recommends the Church Street/Commece intersection be narrowed from 60 to 45 feet.  Lots more in this PDF.

Is a Shift From Free to Pay Parking Really Anti-Community?

If you dipped into FFAF over the weekend you may have noticed a resurgence in talk surrounding a recent development concerning the most-talked about property in Oakhurst.

The topic of the “Big H” property at 630 East Lake Drive – named for a long-gone former tenant – frequently brings out both the young and old alike to debate the future of the property and Oakhurst itself.   The largest remaining vestige of a former era that saw unlimited potential in the automobile, the Big H was built for major artery-like car crowds in a single-family, residential neighborhood.

Today the parking lot often sits mostly empty; and until this past weekend, served as an overflow FREE parking spot for drivers looking to frequent one of Oakhurst’s businesses.

But then, parking suddenly went from FREE to $5, the response from “consumers” was the same as when ANYTHING goes from free to pay.  Anger, resentment, exasperation.  The pastor at the new Oakhurst Church in the “Big H” complex stated publicly on the Oakhurst Message Board that he was “deeply saddened and frustrated” by the switch to pay parking, and asserted that creating a pay lot “was in direct conflict” to “fostering community”.

But is it really?

Continue reading “Is a Shift From Free to Pay Parking Really Anti-Community?”

Decatur Drops Idea of Installing Railroad “Quiet Zones”

Decatur Metro has learned that the City of Decatur is abandoning the idea of installing railroad quiet-zones at its three railroad crossings.

City Manager Peggy Merriss tells DM that safety concerns from residents and a general lack of funding were the major reasons the city is dropping the idea of investing in numerous safety upgrades at the city’s three railroad intersections so trains would no longer be required to blow their horns on approach.

The feedback from community surveys and comments regarding implementation of a quiet zone during the planning process for the railroad crossings at College and Candler has been mixed. Those opposed to a quiet zone have voiced serious concerns regarding pedestrian safety, especially for students, because of the general accessibility and open nature of the railroad right of way. In addition, improvements would have to be made at the Atlanta Avenue intersection where no current source of funding exists. All 3 crossings would require safety improvements in order to implement a quiet zone.

The cost to construct and install the equipment necessary to establish a quiet zone is expensive and implementation anticipated relying heavily on funding by sources other than the bond funds.

Because of these factors, it seemed reasonable to conclude as part of the project update that it was unlikely that the quiet zone would move forward.

Other improvements for two of these railroad intersections is already underway.

Spurred on by the Decatur’s Transportation Plan and a $1.48 million grant from the Federal Transportation Enhancement program, the city is currently finalizing plans to improve safety and accessibility “for pedestrians, bicyclists and others using the street” at the railroad intersections at McDonough and Candler.  You can read more on the current progress of that initiative HERE.

Improving Some of Decatur’s Most Dangerous Intersections

Over at The Decatur Minute, Catherine alerts us to a community workshop being held by the city this coming Thursday, September 9th from 6pm to 8pm at city hall to discuss the scheduled railroad crossing improvements at BOTH McDonough and Candler Street and the streetscape improvements along North McDonough.

You can read the details of the proposed changes to both the railroad intersections in the Streets section of Decatur’s Community Transportation Plan (pdf).

Here’s the summary statement of the problems addressed for South Candler to get those juices flowing…

The intersection is too complex and intimidating for most pedestrians and bicyclists. In particular, the “Path” on the northwest corner is circuitous in that three street crossings are required just to avoid the most obvious direct crossing of Trinity Place parallel to the railroad tracks. Some crossings do not meet the minimum requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. None of these are “complete streets” as they do not include adequate facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

The left-turn movement across the railroad tracks from northbound Candler Street to westbound Howard Avenue is problematic and contributes to a vehicular crash history that is higher than at any other intersection in Decatur. Residents living south and southeast of downtown are not likely to walk across this intersection unless they must.

MARTA To Fund Planning & Design N. McDonough Rd. & Commerce Intersections

The item on last night’s agenda (page 59) – which led me to the city’s $1.77 million McDonough Street LCI grant – is also of particular interest on its own.

Remember when the Atlanta Regional Commission saved MARTA from massive cuts last year, directing $25 million in federal stimulus money to the cash-strapped transit authority’s operating budget?

Well, there were some strings attached.  It wasn’t an out-of-the-kindness-of-their-heart gift.

It was actually just a clever way to get around the suffocating state-imposed mandate that MARTA use half of its revenue from the 1-cent Fulton/DeKalb tax on “capital improvement”, even in times when the other 50% can’t keep the operating budget afloat.  (For more background info and the current sorry state on transit legislation, check out Thomas Wheatley’s excellent Creative Loafing article from yesterday)

In exchange for its $25 million operating budget “bailout”, MARTA agreed to use an equal amount of funds from its capital improvement fund to pay for studies and improvements around MARTA stations in line with the ARC’s mission to promote and fund more “livable” communities.

And it looks like Decatur will see a piece of that delicious capital improvements pie.

At last night’s City Commission meeting, the commission approved an agreement that MARTA would fund the planning and design for both the North McDonough streetscape improvements AND improvements to the Commerce Street intersections at Church Street and Clairemont Ave.

In a note to City Manager Peggy Merriss, Asst. City Manager Hugh Saxon also mentions that he believes there will be enough funding in the $750,000 budget to also design bike lanes for Church Street.

http://www.decaturmetro.com/2009/05/27/marta-ga-lawmakers-get-bailed-out/

City To Hold Railroad Crossing Improvements Workshop – Nov. 12th

Last month Hugh Saxon promised our city commissioners “extensive community participation and master planning effort” as part of the $1.5 capital bond project – detailed in the Community Transportation Plan – to improve railroad crossings at Candler/College/Trinity and McDonough/College/Howard.  Today we learn a few more details about those meetings.  From the city website

A community workshop to discuss the railroad crossing improvements will be held on Thursday, November 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the City Commission meeting room of Decatur City Hall, 509 North McDonough Street, in downtown Decatur. We hope you will be able to join us to learn more about this project.

As part of its capital improvements program, the City of Decatur is considering options for improvements to the railroad crossings at Candler and McDonough Streets in downtown Decatur. The purpose of the work is to improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians, bicyclists and others using these facilities. Measures required to implement a quiet zone in the railroad corridor will also be considered.

Also, here are a few more budget and timeline details specific to the intersections from the city’s webpage, which I had not seen before.

Candler/College/Trinity

  • Budget: $1,200,000
  • Status: Preliminary
  • Bid Date: November 2011
  • Construction: January 2012 – August 2012
  • TE project – $1,000,000 awarded in February 2008
  • DOT facility / CSX facility
  • Quiet zone?

McDonough/College/Howard

  • Budget: $600,000
  • Status: Preliminary
  • Bid Date: November 2011
  • Construction: January 2012 – August 2012
  • TE Project – $480,000 awarded in February 2008
  • DOT facility / CSX facility
  • Quiet zone?

Note that the question of whether to make these two intersection “quiet zones” has yet to be decided.  A great reason to attend and participate in the November meeting!

h/t: The Decatur Minute