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Decatur residents urge GDOT to address concerns at Scott Boulevard, West Ponce

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Decatur residents urge GDOT to address concerns at Scott Boulevard, West Ponce

From left, residents Sara Cushing, Sarah Phillips, Karen Phillips and Lauri Hicks listen while Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) District 7 Engineer Paul DeNard briefs participants during a GDOT site visit to review vehicle crashes and existing conditions on W. Ponce de Leon Avenue and Scott Boulevard in Decatur on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Georgia Department of Transportation is working to add two roundabouts on Ponce de Leon Avenue. The agency met with residents and government officials at one location in the fall to discuss the project. About six months later, residents say they have seen no visible action.

The roundabouts would be placed at Ponce de Leon Avenue and East Lake Road and Scott Boulevard and West Ponce De Leon Avenue.

“Based on the traffic engineering study (data-driven safety analysis) and community feedback from several meetings held in 2019 and 2020, we believe the roundabouts are the preferred alternative for a safety project at these two locations,” State Safety Engineer Manager Sam Harris previously said.

Harris said the main concern GDOT has heard from the community is speed, crash severity and crash frequency along Ponce de Leon, also called State Route 8.

“The design of a roundabout changes the context of the intersection, resulting in an effective way for managing speeds and reduced conflict points,” Harris said. “Lower vehicle speeds and reduced conflicts can also create a more suitable environment for our vulnerable roadways users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists.”

The project is currently in the concept phase. There’s no official start date yet. The roundabouts could cost $6 million. The project is scheduled for letting in fall 2026.

“The project is still in the conceptual design phase of gathering the various studies of environment, soil, traffic volume, and etc. and we’re still on track to have all those surveys/studies done by the spring,” a spokesperson from GDOT said. “So we won’t see any solid updates on the results of the studies until spring 2023.”

Decatur resident Karen Phillips said the intersection at Scott Boulevard and West Ponce de Leon Avenue has become an increasingly dangerous area due to various vehicle crashes. Neighbors in the area reported a crash on Feb. 26.

DeKalb Police said the incident happened around 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 26. Due to conflicting stories and no available witnesses, DeKalb Police did not issue any citations.

“One vehicle was traveling down W. Ponce de Leon towards E Parkwood Place and the other was traveling north on E Parkwood. Both entered the intersection and collided. Both drivers reported minor injuries and both refused transport by EMS,” a spokesperson for DeKalb Police said.

Phillips has seen a car crash through a fence near where children often play, as well as an overturned vehicle.

“I’m personally surprised that no pedestrians have been hurt in this intersection,” she said.

Phillips has been asking GDOT for short- and long-term plans to improve safety at the intersection.

“In the short-term, I’d expect to see additional signage and warning lights,” Phillips said. “In the long term, I know a traffic circle is on the table, which seems like a good plan, but is many years from happening.”

She felt like the walkthrough with GDOT on Sept. 9, 2022, was a good first step, following about two years of repeated emails.

“We’re almost a month out from the walkthrough, so I hope we’re close to at least having a short-term solution,” Phillips said.

Sara Cushing lives along Scott Boulevard. She has seen countless crashes outside her front door. Her driveway often ends up being the most convenient place for people to pull off the street and wait for first responders to arrive.

“The more serious accidents can be traumatic to witness,” Cushing said.

She added that when there is a vehicle collision, especially a serious one that involves first responders, traffic crawls to a standstill or has to be diverted.

“At rush hour, this certainly causes a lot of inconvenience for commuters,” Cushing said. “It is virtually impossible for me to turn left out of my driveway most of the time, and I am less and less comfortable trying to turn left into my driveway from Scott Boulevard. I often have to drive around the block to get into or out of my driveway.”

The situation has gotten worse over the years. Cushing said it would be helpful to lower the speed limit in the area and enforce a lower speed limit robustly.

“I understand that a traffic circle is part of the long-term plan, and I believe that would go a long way towards addressing the issue,” Cushing said. “I am glad to see that GDOT has erected barriers to prevent people from turning left on Ridgecrest, but that doesn’t do much to address our situation, and it’s a bit frustrating to see that money has very recently been spent on the intersection of Ponce de Leon and North Ponce de Leon Ave, on the north side of Deepdene Park, which appears to benefit only the residents of that small street, though I admit I am not familiar with the GDOT’s thinking in prioritizing that particular intersection.”

Resident Lauri Hicks also noted that she no longer walks her dogs or with her son on the sidewalk on Scott Boulevard due to safety concerns.

“I fear for my life and theirs because so many vehicles end up on our sidewalks,” Hicks said. “The intersection is a recipe for disaster because not only do Scott and Ponce intersect, but Parkwood Drive is also intersecting with W. Ponce and Scott Blvd. This leads to cars stopping to turn, and there is also a lot of confusion about which lane to be in if headed East on Ponce. I have nearly been hit multiple times.”

She has also been nearly hit numerous times when pulling into her driveway. Hicks agreed that speed is a key issue, and is an immediate issue that needs to be addressed.

“Drivers coming down Scott Blvd have often just left 285, and they treat Scott [Boulevard] like it’s an extension of the highway driving 60-70 [miles per hour] as other drivers are stopping to make left turns and as Scott [Boulevard] and Ponce thread through neighborhoods,” Hicks said.

She would also like to see better signage, and signage that captures each vehicle’s speed as cars are approaching the intersection.

“The intersection should be converted to a traffic circle, and there needs to be better demarcation/separation of the road and the sidewalks,” Hicks said. “Pedestrians walk on our private property/easement to avoid walking on the sidewalks on Scott [Boulevard] and Ponce. I would also like to see the crosswalk at Venetian Pools turned into an actual light that stops traffic for pedestrians.”

Hicks also participated in the walkthrough last fall.

“There has been no action on the part of GDOT that I am aware of to address the concerns at this intersection,” she said. “I was happy that they were taking our concerns seriously, but I am disappointed that they haven’t taken more swift action. Undoubtedly, this has led to more preventable accidents and harm.”

She added that she and her family love their home in Decatur, but are thinking about leaving the area.

“It’s just a matter of time before we’re the victims of the poorly designed roadways and a painfully slow GDOT response,” she said.

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