Decatur City Commission passes plan to extend Adair Street, despite opposition from some residentsThe proposed fix for the Atlanta Avenue intersection. Image obtained via the city of Decatur.
The Decatur City Commission at its Aug. 5 meeting voted 4-1 to approve a plan to fix the Atlanta Avenue intersection by extending Adair Street from West Howard to West College Avenue.
Commissioner Brian Smith was the sole no vote, but he wasn’t the only dissenter in the room. Several people spoke during public comments urging commissioners to reconsider the proposal.
Objections came primarily from people living on or near Olympic Place, which would be losing a designated traffic signal under the plan. Bruce Landis, with Civil Engineering Firm Landis-Evans & Partners, and Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon said the proposal is just the beginning of a more detailed planning process that will address residents’ concerns.
“We’re at the end of the beginning. We’re not at the end,” Saxon told commissioners. “There will be more public input and certainly you will have to approve any plan that we develop out of this process.”
“What we’re recommending is to allow us to move forward with one crossing location,” he said. “We’re not moving forward unless those concerns have been addressed.”
According to a presentation given to the City Commission, the benefits of the Adair extension include improving access at Adair Street, keeping the existing railroad crossing open during construction, simplification of traffic movements and reducing signal delay. The drawbacks, aside from losing the traffic signal, include encouraging cut through traffic on Mead Road, affecting residential driveways on College Avenue and possibly requiring regrading to accommodate the railroad crossing elevation.
Residents opposed to the project weren’t calmed by assurances that the problems with the Adair Street extension would be addressed before construction begins.
Tomas Valenti, who lives on West College Avenue, told commissioners, “I have no idea as to what will happen once you put an intersection directly across from my driveway.”
“Right now, on Eastbound college heading to the Atlanta Ave crossover, there is room for about six cars to be in queue for the left turn. As it is now with those six spaces, in heavy traffic times, there are way more than six cars waiting to turn left,” he said. “So these left turners spill into the non-turn lane. I have seen impatient commuters pull around cars in the left queue line and drive up onto the sidewalk of either the Imperial or my driveway to get around the left turn motorists. Now in your plan, it appears that at most two cars maximum, not six, will be able to be in this queue. This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Mandy Lebowitz, who lives on Olympic Place, told commissioners, “You have to pause this vote tonight, and think further about what is really the right decision for all of us.”
Following his “no” vote, Commissioner Smith said he didn’t feel like planners had given enough consideration to other ideas.
“I just wasn’t convinced that all the options were fleshed out,” Smith said. ” … I was for deferring it to flesh out other options to make sure the decision was the right decision.”
He said the right decision could still ultimately be the one commissioners approved. He wanted to hear more about the possibility of extending Mead Road from West College to West Howard, but said that plan was rejected amid concerns about more traffic around Oakhurst Elementary School.
Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers, who voted for the plan, said that failing to address residents’ concerns will affect how he votes on different aspects of the project moving forward, including the design of the Adair extension.
“If we haven’t given the utmost consideration to what we’ve heard, I really am going to have a hard time going forward with anything that doesn’t involve some kind of protection,” Powers said.
Saxon, the Deputy City Manager, said he shares that concern.
“That’s the challenge we, have coming up with a solution that’s safe and accessible for everybody,” Saxon said. “We’re concerned about safety across the board.”
The next steps will be the preliminary design which would attempt to alleviate problems at Olympic Place and incorporate bicycle and pedestrian options. The city would need a preliminary review from GDOT and CSX railroad. Sales tax money will pay for the construction of the intersection improvements.
Editor’s note: Most of this story was reported by viewing a live video stream of the Aug. 5 City Commission meeting.