At the insistence of Councilman Greg Whitlock, the Duluth City Council is going to revisit its Aug. 13 decision to accept the design concept for a proposed Buford Highway median. The council decided at its Oct. 22 work session to consider modifying the design.
The raised, landscaped median would run from Ga. Hwy. 120 to Davenport Road with two breaks that allow left-hand turns into businesses and streets along Buford Highway.
The design had been accepted by a split 3-2 vote of the council in August. Whitlock and Councilwoman Marsha Bomar voted against it. Bomar questioned then and now whether the median breaks were too close together based on traffic engineering standards.
Whitlock said proposed location of the median breaks appears to benefit businesses that are thriving such as Rexall Drugs/Rexall Grill and BB&T and hurt other businesses on the highway that are struggling. “I’ve received a lot of telephone calls and emails from businesses [along Buford Highway] asking us not to do a median at all,” he said.
Whitlock clarified that he was not opposed to putting in the median. He questioned, however, if the median were conducive to future Buford Highway redevelopment.
Representatives of Family Restaurant and the Dairy Queen previously appeared before the council opposing the median design because it would adversely affect their businesses.
Bomar suggested that the city staff and the engineering consultant on the project modify the design based on the concerns aired at the meeting. Whitlock added that the city needed to initiate a dialogue among the property owners about providing interparcel access. Adding a driveway behind the Rexall Drugs/Rexall Grill was mentioned as a possibility.
The design concept has already been sent to the Georgia Department of Transportation for review and comments. Bomar said if the council changed the design, it could submit a modified plan.
Originally, only one median break had been proposed, but city staff had been asked to add a second. City Engineer Melissa Muscato said that the two break locations were based on traffic counts.
The timeline for the project indicates that the city would begin acquiring right-of-way for the project in 2014 and let the construction bid in 2015, she said.
Muscato said the revisions could be ready for discussion at the council’s November work session.
The median project would be funded through grants and SPLOST monies. The city was awarded an initial Transportation Enhancement (TE) Grant in the amount of $300,000 in 2009 and second TE grant in the amount $150,000 in 2011 for the project. Matching funds for the two grants using 2005 and 2009 SPLOST monies already have been budgeted by the city.