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Decatur to keep Church Street road diet and add cycle track

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Decatur to keep Church Street road diet and add cycle track

A rendering of the Church Street cycle track. Image obtained via the city of Decatur

By Cathi Harris, contributor 

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission voted Monday to approve a plan to permanently reduce the car traffic lanes on Church Street from four lanes to two lanes from the city limits on the north side to the intersection with Commerce Drive.

In their place, each side of Church will get a dedicated bike lane and improved sidewalks that will tie in with the pedestrian and cycle-track improvements along Commerce Drive.

“This is a project that actually started 11 years ago,” Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon noted in his presentation during the commission’s regular meeting. “We went through several rounds of funding options with the Georgia Department of Transportation, then when we had the plans finished three years ago, it took us the remaining time to obtain all of the necessary construction easements. It has been a challenge.”

The Church Street bike and pedestrian improvements will complete the final segment of dedicated bike travel lanes from the PATH Stone Mountain trail along the CSX corridor in central Decatur to the city limits on the north side of town, Saxon said.

In addition to the changes along Church Street, the project will also include pedestrian safety improvements to the intersections at Church and Commerce and Commerce and Clairemont Avenue. The city will eliminate the vehicle slip lanes at Clairemont and reduce the crossing distances at both, making it easier for pedestrians to safely navigate and reducing distractions for drivers.

During the public comment period, Decatur High School student Zoe Wakefield spoke in support of the measure.

“On Thursdays and Fridays, I bike to school and I have to bike along Church Street,” she said. “I am always scared someone is going to hit me because the cars go so fast.”

Ash Miller, who lives on Benson Street in south Decatur, said he was also in favor of the added bike lanes because it would allow his family to access the city’s parks and recreation facilities at Glenlake Park from their home.

“I think this is a fantastic type of leadership that our city is showing for supporting alternative modes of transportation,” Miller said. “This will be a fantastic connector route through the city, so I really appreciate all the planning and thought that has gone into this.”

Some residents did express concern that further lane reductions on Church and slowing traffic along Commerce would result in traffic bottlenecks and then increase traffic through neighborhood side streets.

“We have to remember that Church Street is an artery,” said Renita Trotti, who lives on Glendale Avenue. “It’s used not just by people who live here, but by people who live outside the city and come in for work. In the morning, it is already difficult to get out of the neighborhood and I see cars speeding down Glendale when kids are walking to school.”

Commissioner Lesa Mayer also wondered what could be done to alleviate problems for people who could not walk or bike, but still needed to travel along Commerce and Church for work, school or to access government services.

“No doubt taking out the slip lanes, and the construction of this project and many other factors will impact traffic. Given that we will be changing the flow of how traffic was moving through Decatur previously, are we looking at other ways that we can mitigate that and keep drivers from going through neighborhoods, especially at prime rush hour?” Mayer asked.

There is ongoing tension around this issue because measures that enhance pedestrian and cyclist safety necessarily limit car vehicle speeds on city streets, Saxon said. “I don’t know that there is a good way to address that conflict, except to say that most of the traffic [problems] exist during the peak hours in the morning and evening and the traffic is free flowing most of the day.”

Ultimately, the City Commission voted unanimously to approve the project, awarding a contract in the amount of $2,748,759.95 to Lewallen Construction of Marietta. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) will provide 80 percent of the funding for the construction phase of the project, with the city providing the remaining 20 percent, Saxon said.

The total project budget is $3.2 million, with the state contributing $2.6 million.

Construction of the improvements is slated to begin in July and will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

In other business:

-Commissioners approved a license for on-premises alcohol sales to Etanya Lucas, owner of Hattie Mae’s Texas-Style Barbecue and Cajun Kitchen, 130 Clairemont Avenue, Suite 100.

-The commission awarded a contract to audio-visual technology provider, Solutionz, Inc., for technology upgrades to the City Commission meeting room. The updates will allow Decatur residents, city staff and commissioners to virtually attend and participate in City Commission meetings in the future, even after in-person meetings return. The contract is for $33,261.09 on a total project budget of $35,000.

-Commissioners approved a change order in the amount of $38,502.52 for the citywide fiber optic network project. The change is needed to support an additional 2,003 linear feet of cable that is needed to complete the project.

-The commission awarded a contract to Omshiv Construction, LLC, for the construction of and repair of curb ramps and crosswalks at the insertion of Forkner Drive and Glendale Avenue. The contract is for $21,785 with a total project budget of $25,000.

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