Prince Avenue will go on a temporary road diet later this month as county officials test out changes meant to slow down traffic on the fast-moving corridor, making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians as well as drivers.
Prince Avenue residents have been asking for roadway changes since at least 2004. Similar proposals were narrowly voted down by the commission in 2006, then blocked by former mayor Nancy Denson, who refused to put it on the agenda in 2014.
“This is something that’s so overdue, it makes my head spin,” Commissioner Melissa Link said. “People are jumping for joy over this proposal. I really look forward to seeing it made permanent. And of course we’re going to get complaints from drivers that they have to go slower, but that’s the freakin’ point. This is essentially an urban, neighborhood-adjacent street.
“Hopefully, this will get us to a point where more people will readily and happily hop on their bikes and not get into a car and spew more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere,” Link said. “On another note, this will improve safety and very likely save lives.”
The pilot project will involve restriping a portion of Prince, temporarily reconfiguring it from four car lanes to two travel lanes, a center turn lane and two bike lanes protected from car traffic by removable plastic barriers. During the pilot project, traffic engineers will measure speeds on the corridor, as well as the effect on cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods lining Prince.
As originally proposed, the pilot project would have extended from Pulaski Street to Barber Street. However, a commission-defined option from commissioners Carol Myers, Tim Denson, Jesse Houle and Link extends it almost all the way to Milledge Avenue, where the locally controlled road becomes a state highway under the control of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Another facet of the commission-defined option went unmentioned but is equally important: The pilot will last for 60 days rather than 90. That accelerated timeline means the vote on making the changes permanent will take place in November instead of December. Why does that matter? Because, if the vote were in December, a commissioner opposed to the changes could strategically vote yes, then make a motion to reconsider in January. At that time, three newly elected commissioners will replace the left-leaning Link, Denson and Russell Edwards, and there is a sneaking suspicion among progressives that the incoming commissioners won’t be so enamored of the project. Voting in November heads off that possibility.
So far, though, support for the pilot project is unanimous. Even Commissioner Patrick Davenport reversed his position and voted to move forward. Commissioner Mike Hamby also voted in favor despite raising concerns about on-street parking, particularly in front of the UGA President’s House and the Taylor-Grady House
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