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Georgia DOT evaluating speed limits of state routes in Decatur

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Georgia DOT evaluating speed limits of state routes in Decatur

FILE PHOTO: Residents walk along Scott Boulevard with Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) representatives 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.

Decatur, GA — The Georgia Department of Transportation is evaluating the speed limits on the four state routes in Decatur and is considering adding a pedestrian scramble to the intersection of College Avenue and South Candler Street.

Decatur City Manager Andrea Arnold gave a report to the city commission during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16, in response to multiple pedestrian crashes that have happened in the city recently. She shared the news of the GDOT projects and several steps the city is taking to address pedestrian safety.

Since November 2023, there have been several crashes involving pedestrians and safety has been on the mind of residents, and city officials.

On Nov. 6, drivers hit four pedestrians that day, injuring three pedestrians and killing a fourth, a 16-year-old boy.

A driver left the scene on Tuesday, Jan. 9, after hitting a juvenile pedestrian. Police said the crash happened at the intersection of Commerce Drive and West Howard Avenue around 8:40 a.m.

Two more pedestrians were hit on Jan. 10 at South Candler Street and East College Avenue. The driver was cited.

“It’s upset us, concerned us, especially as a city that I think has reasons to be proud of the safe pedestrian infrastructure that we’ve worked so hard on for decades – the sidewalks, the crosswalks, the safe routes to school, the bike paths that have been put in place,” Arnold said on Tuesday night.

​​The local advocacy group Calm Decatur began circulating a petition asking for lower speed limits, better crosswalks, and increased traffic enforcement. Rebecca Serna, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group Propel ATL, called the number of pedestrians hit on Nov. 6 “very concerning” and said elected officials, including Decatur’s, need to work to create safer streets.

GDOT is doing some work in the city, including looking at the speed limits on all state routes in the city. Four state routes run through Decatur – College Avenue, Scott Boulevard, South Candler Street, and Clairemont Avenue. A portion of Commerce Drive, between College and Clairemont avenues, is also a state route.

The department is currently conducting its speed study, and it adjusts the speed limit based on the way people are driving, Arnold said. It’s unknown when GDOT will be finished collecting data.

“Just to be clear, the lower the speeds that they are detecting then that could result in a lower enforceable speed limit,” she said.

Arnold encouraged drivers to “keep it slow” and go the speed limit, or lower, while traveling on the state highways.

“That could definitely help us in our many-years goal of having the speed limit on these state routes reduced,” Arnold added.

GDOT is also evaluating the intersection of South Candler Road and College Avenue to consider converting the northbound left turn lane into a protected left turn. GDOT is also looking at a potential pedestrian scramble at that intersection.

“A [pedestrian] scramble [is] where all vehicle movement would be stopped and only [pedestrians] would be allowed to move in any direction,” Deputy City Manager David Junger told Decaturish.

There is currently a pedestrian scramble at the intersection of Clairemont and East Ponce de Leon avenues.

Residents have also been asking GDOT to address concerns at Scott Boulevard and West Ponce de Leon Avenue. The agency is planning to add two roundabouts on Ponce de Leon Avenue. The roundabouts would be placed at Ponce de Leon Avenue and East Lake Road and Scott Boulevard and West Ponce De Leon Avenue.

State Safety Engineer Manager Sam Harris previously 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.

Arnold added during the city commission meeting that the work related to the Safe Streets for All grant will be more like a marathon and things won’t change quickly.

“That will be a citywide planning process looking at citywide safety improvements and policies,” Arnold said. “For example, that would be our opportunity to really research no turns on red, 25 mile per hour speed limits, and I do believe that we have stressed, and made it clear, that we don’t necessarily have to wait for the completion of the planning process for some of these recommendations to move forward.”

But the city is working on a few other things in addition to that.

– At its next meeting, the city commission will consider purchasing three automated, portable messaging signs.

“These are electronic signs on a portable trailer, some refer to it as a variable message board, so we put a message on these boards trying to get people’s attention. We can place these at entrances to our city,” Arnold said. “I will say that I think it’s important that we provide a message to people who are entering our city who otherwise may not live here and be as familiar with our walking culture.”

– Arnold also intends to implement a pace car program for city vehicles, including police vehicles.

All city-issued would have the pace car magnet or sticker, and with that comes the expectation that the vehicle will travel the city speed limit or lower, setting the pace for other vehicles on the road. She added that anyone in the community can participate in a pace car program.

– Almost all the school zone speed cameras have been installed.

The camera on Clairemont Avenue has not been installed yet, pending another approval from GDOT.

In other camera news, the city is reviewing the possibility of implementing red light cameras in the city. City staff will make a recommendation about the cameras later this year.

– Sidewalks are being designed for South Columbia Drive and Derrydown Way. New sidewalks will also soon be designed for North Candler Street and West College Avenue, in front of Beacon Hill Middle School.

– Five audible crosswalk signals will be installed in downtown Decatur.

“That equipment was actually ordered a year ago and has arrived at GDOT offices, so we are awaiting the equipment, and then we will arrange for the installation,” Arnold said.

– The police department is anticipated to make a recommendation to add crossing guards at two more locations. The department currently has 44 crossing guard positions.

– The city is looking to improve lighting at certain intersections.

“We already have lighting as part of the plan at Adair and West Ponce de Leon and there are some other areas that are currently under review,” Arnold said.

– Some pedestrian improvements will be done as part of the city’s local maintenance improvement grant program.

Coventry Road is among the streets slated to be repaved and traffic-calming measures will be implemented as well.

The traffic-calming work on Coventry Road includes narrowing the travel lanes, modifying the existing speed hump to a speed table, adding a raised crosswalk, realigning the intersections at Chelsea Drive and Kathryn Avenue, and laying out the on-street parking in a chicane pattern, or lane shift, to encourage drivers to slow down, Assistant City Manager Cara Scharer previously said.

A new sidewalk is also proposed on the north side of the street between the city limits and North Parkwood Road.

Adair Street will also be repaved as part of the city’s 2023 repaving program, and traffic-calming measures will be part of that construction.

Features of the traffic-calming plan include new raised crosswalks installed across Adair Street at Hibernia and Emerson avenues, on-street parking between Cottonwood Place and West Ponce de Leon Avenue will be shifted to the east side of Adair Street, and new traffic control signs and additional streetlights will be added, among other traffic-calming measures, Capital Projects Manager Hugh Saxon previously said.

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