Forest Park building sidewalks, transforming area

By Ed Brock

Rio Carter actually jumped for joy when he heard that the city of Forest Park plans to build sidewalks along Georgia Avenue.

"They need to, for real," said Carter. "I almost got hit by a doughnut truck and a couple of (Mercedes) Benzes. I've got to walk up this street every day to get where I got to go."

Two projects, the Transit Oriented Pedestrian Improvement and the Sidewalks to Schools, are among several projects planned or under way that are gradually transforming downtown Forest Park.

Along Old Dixie Road from the city limits near Cynthia Road to Central Avenue the city has installed sidewalks, pedestrian lights and landscaping as part of a beautification project. The work has made for easier access to Auto Finance where Gregory Hearing is executive vice president.

The sidewalks were especially good for residents of nearby Breckenridge Apartments, Hearing said.

"The children were walking down a little path, so it's really helped them," Hearing said.

Just north of Hearing's business the city is widening Cash Memorial Drive where it intersects Old Dixie for easier access to the businesses on that road, many of which experience heavy traffic from tractor trailers said Forest Park City Manager Bill Werner.

"For the trucks to get in an out of it was tough," Werner said.

That project is partly financed by the county's recently passed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Werner said.

The work along Old Dixie Highway began in fall of 2003 and is now nearly complete. Werner said that when the Georgia Department of Transportation completes its work on widening a bridge that carries Old Dixie over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks that bisect the city sidewalks would be included on the bridge as well.

Werner said that the entire project costs $675,000. The city completed a similar beautification along Jonesboro Road where it runs through the city from Forest Parkway almost to Interstate 285.

"(Old Dixie) does not have as extensive landscaping as we did on Jonesboro Road because the right of ways aren't there," Werner said.

GDOT and SPLOST are also providing most of the funding for the Sidewalks to Schools Phase III and the Transit Oriented Pedestrian Improvements projects. The two projects are expected to cost around $1.4 million with a $356,000 match from the city, Werner said.

Sidewalks to Schools could include Bridge Avenue from the cul de sac to East Street, Georgia Avenue from Forest Parkway to Ash Street, Bennett Alley from West Street to Lake Drive, Pine Street from Bridge Avenue to Forest Parkway, Oak Street from Lake Drive to Forest Parkway, Park Drive from South Avenue to Forest Parkway and Lake Drive from West Street to Main Street.

That project would include curbs and gutters in some cases. Werner said the city would reapply for Phase I and II of the project since those phases were voted down by the city council last year.

Transit Oriented Pedestrian Improvements could include Forest Avenue from College Street to Jonesboro Road, West Street from South Avenue to Main Street, South Avenue from West Street to Bartlett Drive, Forest Parkway from Interstate 75 to Jonesboro Road and First Street from Kennedy Road to West Street.

The city council could approve an engineering firm for the projects next week and Werner said he hopes the city can begin surveying for the projects in the next two to three weeks.