A draft report with ideas to improve pedestrian safety near the new Main Elementary School school includes one-way traffic on Spider Webb Drive and traffic calming features along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Patti Pittman, the Safe Routes to Schools coordinator for the North Georgia region, stressed to leaders at the Bike!Walk! Northwest Georgia meeting Tuesday that the recommendations have not been signed off on by Georgia Department of Transportation officials or the City of Rome administration.
The new school is slated to open at the start of 2019-2020 school term.
Pittman said her team conducted a Walk Audit that encompassed an area from the school up to Five Points, out North Broad Street to Callahan Street, across to Kingston Avenue and then across Chambers Street back to MLK Jr. Boulevard.
Pittman said the audit team found infrastructure in the area in generally poor shape.
“It just needs a little love,” Pittman said.
Near the top of the list of recommendations is that Spider Webb Drive be designated as a one-way street, with traffic moving from the direction of the Dairy Queen to the school to facilitate a better flow of traffic dropping off children in he morning and picking them up in the afternoon.
She said that a full traffic signal where motorists come back out onto MLK Jr. Blvd. was desirable, but she questioned if one would ever become reality. The recommendations also include pedestrian-activated flashing signals (called hybrid beacons) to facilitate pedestrians who need to cross the very wide MLK Jr. Boulevard at the school.
The report, which is still being reviewed by GDOT, also suggests a series of traffic calming measures along MLK Jr. Boulevard.
“This was built for Autobahn speed,” Pittman said. Her report includes pedestrian islands in the median and bump outs at strategic locations in an area which is designated for parking, but is frequently used as a third lane in either direction.
Also of note in the report are recommendations for significant sidewalk enhancements along Callahan Street, particularly at the railroad crossing, a sidewalk along Chamber Street from Kingston Road to MLK Jr. Boulevard and lighting improvements in the entire area.
Pittman called the railroad crossing on Callahan Street a “nightmare for pedestrians.”
Northwest Georgia Regional Commission Transportation Planner Joseph Davidson said he plans to take the Bike!Walk! Northwest Georgia meetings to various locations around the region in the future in order to spur attendance.
Davidson also pointed out a Smart Asset report of the 25 Best Cities for Runners that did not include any communities in the deep Southeast. The study was based on criteria which included paces per 10,000 residents, walkability, safety, housing costs and access to parks. Arlington, Virginia, ranked No. 1.