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Making Highway 85 Safer
Riverdale hopes $850,000 grant will improve roads

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Certain stretches of state Highway 85 in Riverdale are perilous for pedestrians, city officials say.

For example, the intersection at Roundtree Road -- one of the widest segments of Highway 85 -- is so wide that pedestrians often find themselves stuck between the traffic when trying to cross. A small median is all that protects them from oncoming vehicles.

"If people try to cross it, they get stuck in the middle and there's no refuge," said Iris Jessie, city manager. "When you see people pushing strollers, it's pretty scary. It's going to be a great improvement."

Other stretches of Highway 85 have bus stop shelters which sit no more than a foot away from the traffic. With several sharp turns and blind spots, the lack of sidewalks on King Road are a severe hazard for pedestrians walking at night.

The city of Riverdale hopes to address these problems with an $850,000 Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).

Earlier this month, Riverdale became the only city in Clayton County, and the 13th Congressional District to receive the competitive grant.

Riverdale Community Development Director Doug Manning, said the grant would help make the intersection of Roundtree Road and Highway 85 safer for vehicles and pedestrians.

"A number of the accidents that occur in the city of Riverdale occur in that intersection," said Manning. The improvements will "provide a clear delineation between pedestrian and vehicle."

Manning said the grant -- which the city will match by 25 percent -- will help add pedestrian islands, median and landscape improvements, and other beautification aspects to some of Riverdale's highways and streets.

"Any improvement we can do that is going to save lives is a good thing," said Manning.

However, city manager Jessie said because of Georgia's drought, the state has issued a moratorium delaying new landscaping projects on state highways.

Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon said the grant is a "prelude" to the city's Town Center development plan and would complement traffic light improvements already purchased with funds from the 2003 Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

"We're taking this city to a new level in regards to our stakeholders and safety," said Wynn-Dixon. "This gives credence that we have the right people in the right places ... we are showing tenacity to move the city forward."