At the Mayor and Commission work session December 8, David Clark presented a plan to restripe Dougherty Street developed by the staff of ACC Transportation and Public Works (TPW). Their proposal reflects a balanced and effective approach to traffic management with several benefits. The 4 or 5 existing automobile travel lanes would be reduced to 3 lanes, making room for parallel parking along the street.
We sent the following comments to the Mayor and Commission and ACC staff prior to the work session.
The proposed restriping is compatible with the Athens Downtown Master Plan 2030. The Level of Service (LOS) for cars is relatively unaffected, while the new design greatly enhances motorists’ safety and creates a more pedestrian-friendly environment. This is a relatively simple and low-cost solution to a significant problem, and we are glad to see ACC staff thinking more creatively about how to design streets in ways that address motorists’ needs without sacrificing the needs of other users.
This proposal illustrates that changes can be made to improve the street without requiring repaving or reconstruction. That the new configuration would create more than six dozen new on-street parking spaces in downtown Athens is an added bonus.
Dougherty is the third most dangerous street for pedestrians and bicyclists in Athens-Clarke County, as determined by TPW’s 5-year crash history. Experience in Athens has shown that vehicular crash rates are lower for a 3-lane design than for a 4-lane design. Reducing vehicular travel lanes will make the unsignalized crosswalks at Hull Street and Jackson Street safer. Parking along the street will act as a buffer, creating a more comfortable environment for pedestrians. The proposed changes will make the street more comfortable for bicyclists as well.
As part of a broad list of pedestrian safety measures, TPW has also proposed the installation of flashers at the Hull and Jackson crosswalks on Dougherty like those now at the Grit crosswalk, as well as upgrades of all crosswalk markings and advanced pedestrian signal timing at the signalized intersections of Dougherty Street. The proposed restriping will serve to amplify the effectiveness of each of these safety improvements.
A few small, low-cost changes would improve the proposed plan even further. For example, three parking spaces on the south side of Dougherty at the intersection with Hull could be replaced with a dedicated bay for the currently existing ACC bus stop. (David Clark acknowledged this suggestion at the work session.) To make Dougherty Street more comfortable for pedestrians, further enhancements should be considered, such as more street trees, better lighting at crosswalks, and consistently placed streetlights that are in keeping with the style elsewhere in downtown.
A public forum on the Dougherty Street redesign will take place in January. The Mayor and Commission are expected to vote on the proposal in March. If it is approved, the reconfiguration would be implemented in March during spring break.
Tyler Dewey, Tony Eubanks, Jesse Houle, Clint McCrory, Kristen Morales, Jennifer Rice