Program to improve intersections, school zones

By Ed Brock

Clayton State University student Jernard Walker crossed the intersection of Clayton State Boulevard and N. Lee Street with very little difficulty.

In fact, he seemed puzzled by the idea that there may be something done to improve the pedestrian crossing accommodations at the intersection.

"The only thing I see that's wrong is there's a lot of traffic during the day," Walker said.

But Clayton County's Transportation and Development Department does have plans for that intersection and eight others around the county. They are part of the Off-System Safety Pilot Project sponsored by the Georgia Department of Transportation, a project that also includes the installation of school zone markers with flashing lights at 32 schools around the county.

On Tuesday the Clayton County Commission approved the agreement between GDOT and the county for joint, 50/50 funding of the program.

"This is part of the GDOT commitment for our (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program,)" Wayne Patterson, director of the Transportation and Development Department told the commissioners. "It's a super, super program."

One reason it's so super is that the state will pay for half of the $700,000 cost of the program, with the county's $350,000 coming from money raised by the SPLOST. It's part of the statewide "Safety Action Plan" mandated by Gov. Sonny Perdue said GDOT spokesman David Spear.

"It's solely designed to help cities or counties address safety issues with their streets," Spear said.

It's a pilot program because if the initial projects are successful the funding may be expanded, Spear and Patterson said.

Along with the Clayton State Boulevard/N. Lee Street intersection, work is planned at Fayetteville Road and North Avenue and Fayetteville and Smith Street in Jonesboro, Fielder Road and Elliot Road near Morrow, King Road and Walker Road near Riverdale, Lake Harbin Road and Maddox Road, Mt. Zion Parkway and Fielder Road, Mt. Zion Parkway and Mt. Zion Road and Rex Road and Old Rex Morrow Road, all near Morrow.

Like Clayton State/N. Lee, some of the intersections already have the wheelchair ramps mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act, cross walks and signs that will have to be installed fresh at other intersections. In the former case the county will improve the existing accommodations.

For example, the computer system at the Clayton State/N. Lee may be re-timed, Patterson said.

"That's an old system that's been in place a long time," Patterson said.

Also, the accommodations currently exist only on one side of Clayton State Boulevard where they serve a multitude of Clayton State students walking between the campus and Clayton Place Apartments, and so more may be installed on the other side.

Patterson was especially happy about being able to install the flashing signals in the 32 school zones, something he's advocated for some time.

"That's critical for the safety of our children," Patterson said.

Clayton County Public School spokesman Charles White said the school system is grateful.

"Anything that will help to insure the safety of the children in our district by signaling drivers to slow down in school zones has to be welcome," White said.

The signals will improve conditions for the students who walk to school and also for parents driving their children to school.

Patterson said work on the pedestrian accommodations and the flashing signals will begin as soon as the state officials sing the agreement, perhaps as early as next week.