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Duluth to Revisit Median Design

City Councilman Greg Whitlock says that the location of the two breaks in proposed median on Buford Highway appears to benefit thriving businesses and hurt struggling businesses.

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.

Jean H October 23, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Thank you Councilman Whitlock for speaking up for the concerns brought to you. Thank you city council for considering other options, possibilities and integrating the concerns of businesses that would be impacted by medians.
Mack October 23, 2012 at 10:52 PM
If you think that the new traffic circle is bad just wait until this plan is in place. Business along Buford Highway are hurting now for business. If you can not make a left turn, say into the Rexal Grill, most will pass and go some where else. If it ain't broke do not fix it, leave well enough alone. Try making a U turn at one of the breaks and see what happens. The only good thing about this is that Duluth Police would be able to run radar in one direction only, thereby requiring 2 patrol cars instead of one.
Mark Orlandella October 24, 2012 at 12:09 PM
This business area really needs more than a median redesign. It's the Island of Misfit Businesses where quaint "Best of the historic Best" end up associated with the "beast of the horrific beasts" (go there to get that...) and aftermarket pharmaceutical reps behind dimly lit convenience stores try to compete with legitimate pharmacies. On the bright side, there's no hotel charging by the half hour... and city council sees the importance of upscaling where they can to attract better businesses... Before it gets to that point. Work out the lane breaks ASAP, and don't be too worried if your business gets one directly in front of it. If you're worried about losing business(es) because there's no turn lane outside, you're MUCH better off looking inside... All ships (& realestate) rise when the tide comes in, and loyal customers won't think twice about making a U-Turn after driving 20 minutes... to get what they want. Your property should be ready to attract better businesses, and your business worthy of attracting better clientele...
Courtney October 25, 2012 at 03:42 AM
What a waste of money!
Vicki Lynn Harshbarger October 27, 2012 at 05:24 AM
Just my opinion - I just became a new and proud resident of Duluth. Duluth has a lot of wonderful history and is a quaint and beautiful town. I think adding a median is just a way of saying "Thank you for passing through" instead of inviting them in. We already have Peachtree Industrial Blvd & Satellite Blvd for those whose aim is "to just pass through". Let a piece of history remain and focus on making Buford Hwy more beautiful, like the rest of the town is. Just my thoughts. Thanks for listening,

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