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Decatur hosting open house on West Howard-Atlanta Avenue improvements, replacing planters

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Decatur hosting open house on West Howard-Atlanta Avenue improvements, replacing planters

W. Howard Ave. planters.

Decatur, GA — The city of Decatur and the planning team of Landis Evans and Partners, and Atkins will host an open house and workshop to discuss the Re-Imagine West Howard project on Thursday, Dec. 9, from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Atlanta Friends Meeting, 701 West Howard Avenue.

The project will include replacing the notorious planters on West Howard with permanent bicycle and pedestrian safety and landscape improvements. Participants will also discuss the plans for the railroad crossing improvements at Atlanta Avenue.

The city in 2018 placed 125 rectangular and 72 square planters along the road to reduce the number of lanes on West Howard.

The planters were installed to, “create a clearly defined buffer between new travel lanes and the PATH Stone Mountain trail,” Assistant City Manager David Junger previously said.

But the planters were panned when the city installed them and have since become the butt of jokes and meme fodder.

You know you’re in Decatur when you see a Haunted Planter in a Halloween display. The home of Huckleberry Starnes at 221 McKoy Street. Photo by Dean Hesse.

The workshop will give residents the chance to provide suggestions, ask questions and help complete the planning for these pedestrian safety, traffic-calming and bicycle trail improvements. Attendees will be required to wear a mask and have their temperature checked upon entering the workshop.

In August 2019, the Decatur City Commission approved the Adair crossing extension plan, which will extend Adair Street from West Howard to West College Avenue. The next step was to seek public feedback on pedestrian and bicycle priorities, streetscaping and landscaping, and traffic calming for the selected plan. The city held a virtual forum in December 2020 to receive that feedback.

The Adair crossing extension plan includes signals and pedestrian crossings at Olympic Place and at the intersections of Adair with College Ave and Howard Ave.

The City Commission, at its Sept. 27 meeting, approved a change order for this project, which is known as the Atlanta Avenue railroad crossing improvements project. The board increased the project budget from $400,000 to $850,000 for master planning and design.

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The design of the project has not been completed yet, and the city hopes to build upon the options that were considered in December 2020 during the public engagement opportunities.

“Hopefully, we can narrow those down and keep sort of the best features of what is there now with a more permanent choice instead of the planters,” Deputy City Manager Hugh Saxon said at the Sept. 27 meeting.

The scope of the project is also increasing to include permanent traffic-calming, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and landscape improvements to replace the planters on West Howard Avenue. This will add a major new streetscape and bike and pedestrian element to the project.

The original idea provided for a crossing in the same general area as the existing crossing. The project will now include relocating the crossing and restoring the old crossing location to a park-like setting. Additional traffic signal improvements will be added as well for the Olympic Place intersection, Saxon wrote in the memo.

The permanent traffic-calming, bicycle and pedestrian safety and landscape improvements reflect the major recommendations of the original Re-Imagine West Howard plan.

The “Reimagine West Howard” upgrades began in July 2018 as the city worked to improve safety, access and comfort for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists along West Howard Avenue. The modifications extended from the city limits near Paden Circle to Commerce Drive.

The project included:

– Reducing this section of West Howard Avenue from four lanes to two with dedication turn lanes at key intersections

– Additional cycling opportunities, allowing the PATH Trail to better serve pedestrians, recreational users and the disabled

– New midblock pedestrian crossings at Drexel Avenue, Adair Street and Greenwood Circle

– An adjusted pedestrian crosswalk at Atlanta Avenue

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