Friday, July 23, 2010

SPLOST - A Cautionary Observation

I received this from a concerned reader over at the Terry College of Business.  It just goes to point out that we really need to know as much as we can about all of the projects buried in that $196 million SPLOST 2011 monstrosity coming up for a vote in November.  If more thought had been given to such things back when the current iteration of SPLOST was under consideration, perhaps we would not be saddled with such things as the ongoing fiasco that is the proposed Tennis Center.

I do not know how closely you have been following two situations coming up before the M & C at their next voting meeting, but I believe that, if passed, there are two items which will permanently change the traffic patterns of the downtown area, and I do not think that the public is being informed as well as they could or should be.  Therefore I am sending out the information, as I understand it, to those who might have more insight, or who might be able to share thoughts.  Here is what I have gathered:

One change is the "abandonment" of part of Hull Street between Baxter and Broad.  The announcement for this plan is in Friday's (July16) Athens Banner Herald under "Local Government" in the classifieds on page C2.  As I understand it, ACC will be turning over this part of Hull Street to UGA as part of UGA's plans for its special collection's library and it will be permanently closed to through traffic.  Apparently the southern section of Hull below Waddell will be "reconnected" to Florida Ave.  So, Florida Ave. will become Hull Street, and Hull will become a dead-end nub extending from Broad southward and ending at the future special collections library.

Another proposal on the table is part of the SPLOST 2011 referendum that we will be voting on in November.  It is my understanding that the Classic Center expansion plan which is included in the proposal will permanently close the easternmost part of Hancock Ave. to traffic.

The county website for SPLOST 2011 is and I believe there are links to the Classic Center plan there.  As far as the Hull Street plans, the only way I know of to view those would be to visit the Department of Transportation and Public works during business hours at 120 Dougherty Street.

Some of the concerns that have been expressed to me regarding the Hull St. situation are as follows:
  • The redirecting of Hull will involve merging it with Florida Ave., which does not cross broad in a manner so as to provide a convenient link coming back to Five Points from the downtown area.  In other words, once this is done, there will be no "straight shot" coming out of downtown besides Thomas St./East Campus, since Lumpkin is one-way and the section of Hull that currently runs by the Holiday Inn will no longer carry you through to Baxter.
  • This realigning has the probability of pushing more traffic onto the section of Broad Street east of Florida Ave. down to the Thomas/East Broad/Oconee street intersection.
  • ACC will be giving up its ownership of the "new" portion of Hull Street to UGA, and with it any decision-making capability for that right-of-way in the future.  ( I am particularly sensitive to this concern because I live on South Milledge, which is state-owned, and I have been told that we as ACC citizens have little or no control over the decisions the state makes for that road.)
Regarding Hancock Avenue, the concerns I have heard are somewhat similar: 
  • Right now Hancock is the only remaining "straight shot" from downtown to Foundry Street, which is gaining importance with the continued growth of downtown toward the East.  Closing this off would most likely increase traffic congestion at the five-way intersection of Thomas/E. Broad/Oconee streets.
  • The plan to close Hancock is part of a proposal in the SPLOST 2011 referendum that the commission will finalize (I believe) at its Aug 3 meeting.  Unfortunately, it will be very difficult for even the most informed citizens to understand that their vote on Nov. 2 for or against SPLOST will include this street closure plan, if the Classic Center expansion proposal remains unchanged from how it stands now in the SPLOST proposal.
Please let me know any insights, information or opinion that you have on these matters, since other sources of information seem to be scarce.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

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