State vows to continue to help city
CITY OF GRAY
Representatives from District 3 of the Georgia Department of Transportation came to Gray to meet with city council members about a change in the ownership of state routes.
The Aug. 2 meeting was called to order by Gray’s Public Safety Committee Chairman Councilman Terrell Fulford. Six GDOT representatives attended the meeting, headed by District Engineer Michael Presley and District Traffic Engineer Tyler Peek.
Fulford started the meeting with a statement about a letter that was signed by Gray’s mayor in 2007 that he said the city council was not aware of. That agreement transferred the ownership of state routes within the interior of the bypass to the City of Gray.
Gray Police Chief Adam Lowe said he remembered talking about the change a long time ago, but he was made aware it was taking place now when he received the new radar list in June.
Presley said he brought his team to the meeting to talk through the transition and work out any kinks. His team introduced themselves, and council members did the same.
The bottom line of the change is that former state highways in the interior of the North Gray Bypass, which has been renamed Veterans Memorial Parkway by the county, now belong to the city, which includes the responsibility of signage and maintenance of the streets that were formerly state routes and were maintained by the state.
The change includes traffic signals on those streets, most notably Gray’s major intersection that has a traffic light that handles the intersection of six roads and a railroad line.
The only other traffic signal affected is at Washburn Street.
The routes include State Route 11, State Route 22, U.S. 129 and State Route 44 that are now part of the bypass. The names of the roads that were formerly those routes have been officially renamed West Clinton Street, Atlanta Road, Eatonton Highway and East Clinton Street.
Peek said his office was revising the first map and radar list sent to Lowe because it did not include the change for State Route 44.
While he had the ear of the GDOT representatives, Lowe asked for assistance with the light at the entrance to Bill Conn Parkway that is not operating correctly. That light remains the responsibility of the GDOT because Bill Conn Parkway remains State Route 18.
“We need to get it fixed. If not, we’ll be in trouble next week when school starts,” the chief said.
City Attorney John Newberry asked if the city needed to approve a new radar list with the change for State Route
44. Presley said yes, but the city can operate under the current agreement until the new one is in place.
The chief asked if the new radar list could be less confusing.
The group had a discussion about changes in the current green and white directional signs with the names of the highways involved. Lowe said the signs are helpful for people not familiar with the area. After a lengthy discussion, Presley suggested the word ‘to’ could be added to the highway numbers on the sign to say this is the direction to get to the highway.
The chief asked about the changing speed limits for the streets that would now be under city ownership, and Peek said it would be a decision made by the city.
He said the city would submit documentation about why the change was needed, and the GDOT would determine if the change was appropriate. The traffic engineer added that the state would not be doing speed studies on city streets in the future.
Presley made it clear that the GDOT would help the city with the transition of the ownership of the roads. When Lowe asked about the need to remove some outdated GDOT signs, such as those at schools that are no longer located in the area, he said they would definitely help with the clean up.
The chief asked when the ownership of the roads would take effect and Presley said, technically, it already had. Again Presley stated that the state agency would provide guidance during the transition.
Peek said, even after the roads and signals are being maintained by the city, when big needs arise, the GDOT can help with LMIG funds and grants.
“We’ve assisted other communities that way,” he said.
Presley said the traffic signal at the major intersection was tricky, and Peek agreed even an upgrade of the signal would be expensive.
“When you determine the light needs an upgrade, the city can write the GDOT a letter for help. I think you’ll have a decent chance to get it,” Presley said.
He said the agency was not dropping its help with the roads today and would help if a big problem arose.
Peek said the traffic lights have been inspected within the last two months and are operating properly.
Presley suggested the city council meet and decide a date for the transition of responsibility to take place. He said the GDOT would be reasonable, but it could not be two years from now.
Fulford asked for a figure the city would need to add to its budget for the upkeep of the roads and traffic signals.
Peek said he would contact cities of similar size to find out their cost, and Fulford reminded him to factor in the intersection with the railroad.
Peek agreed the traffic signal was challenging.
“It’s tricky to diagnose. It’s like having two or three signals all to itself,” he said.
Lowe said it was the second worst in the state, and the GDOT representatives did not disagree.
The chief asked if the city could make the bypass a mandatory truck route. He said it is the big trucks that take the major toll on the city streets.
“That would take a lot off the city’s back,” he said.
Peek said the city owns the streets and could prohibit trucks unless they were making deliveries in the city.
“It’s your discretion because it’s no longer a state route,” he said. “The advantage of this is you have more control over regulating traffic.”
Lowe said officers would have to use common sense in enforcing the truck route, but the big trucks are a problem in the city. The chief asked about the city receiving additional Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant (LMIG) money from the GDOT for the roads they would now be taking care of.
The answer from Presley was a simple “yes.”
Fulford asked if the bypass would have happened if the city had not agreed to take ownership of the roads.
Presley said it may have further delayed the process but would not have stopped it.
Fulford said, if the city had been aware it was coming, they would have been better prepared, and Presley said more communication is always helpful.
Mayor Ed Barbee asked about striping for crosswalks that he said had not happened since they were installed. He also asked if the lights for the crosswalks were working.
Peek said the crosswalk signals were tested annually and they should all be working.
Presley said the GDOT would look at the striping.
As the meeting concluded, Presley went over the items the GDOT agreed to and the letter the city would write with the date the city would take over the roads.
Fulford thanked the representatives for coming.
“We didn’t like everything we heard but we needed to know,” he said.