By John Schaffner
Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook has reported to the North Buckhead Civic Association that the city’s Public Works Department has come up with a two-phase plan for dealing with the traffic issues on Wieuca Road in relation to the opening Jan. 6 of the new Sarah Smith School.
“The immediacy of the school opening requires a phased approach.” Shook wrote. “Phase I will secure the school zone and its approaches. Phase II, to be planned after the first phase is completed, will address the balance of Wieuca.”
As part of Phase I, the speed limit on Wieuca will be raised from 25 to 35 mph, which will allow the Atlanta Police Department to employ radar/laser detection to deter speeding, “not just in the school zone [which will be 25 mph] but the entire street,” Shook said.
Also, signage will be posted on Wieuca establishing the area as a “Residential Zone,” which will allow APD to issue speeding citations above 30 mph instead of granting speeders a 10-mph cushion.
Shook said the city will aggressively engineer the school zone, including signage that will alert drivers that they are approaching a school zone. “The actual zone boundaries, which will be pushed out as far as allowable [at locations preferred by the community] will be emphasized with signage and flashing lights,” he reported.
Permanent “Your-speed-is”’ radar signs will be installed to further discourage speeding.
To better accommodate pedestrians in the area, the city plans:
Two pedestrian-actuated signalized crosswalks to connect the school frontage with the west side of Wieuca at Whittington and Ivy roads. Shook said problems with the firm under contract to manufacture and install the poles may require off-duty police and/or extra crossing guards until March. He said he is working with Atlanta Public Schools regarding that.
New sidewalk will be poured on the east (school side) of Wieuca from Loridans Drive to N. Ivy. This will promote walking by the numerous students living on that side by saving them from having to cross Wieuca twice.
The bridge spanning Little Nancy Creek will be made safer for pedestrians on the west side of Wieuca in a manner that has yet to be finalized.
Shook said those elements of Phase I will cost approximately $484,000. Roughly half of that amount will come from impact fees (money paid by developers to offset the cost of new infrastructure needed to accommodate their projects) with the balance coming from a city trust-fund account (established to hold sidewalk fees in cases when a community opted to excuse a developer from otherwise required funding obligations).
“Several pieces of legislation will be required to move funding, work with GDOT, and execute these modifications,” Shook said. “As of now I do not anticipate any problems.”
With the exception of the two traffic signals, Shook said, “I am told by Public Works that these actions can be completed by the school opening. Frankly, I believe it will be quite close,” he added.
“While NBCA has not seen specifics, and though there are clear concerns regarding schedule, this announcement represents immense progress toward providing the infrastructure and enforcement needed for the new Sarah Smith campus,” said Gordon Certain, NBCA president. “We sincerely appreciate the efforts of Councilman Shook and Commissioner Basista and his staff that made this plan a reality.”
Shook explained that the city of Atlanta’s Traffic & Transportation Bureau engineers, as well as Public Works Commissioner Joe Basista, “participated in numerous meetings and a detailed site inspection with interested members of the community. I can’t thank them enough for their attentiveness to our questions and concerns. At the end of the day, their recommendations and those of the greater community were scarcely distinguishable,” the Dist 7 councilman reported.