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Bettering the Boro - Downtown Streetscape plans move forward
Mazhar Elhaj, director of Statesboro’s Engineering Department, and Erica Webb, the city’s civil construction inspector and project manager for the Downtown Streetscape project, look at renderings and blueprints prepared for the Streetscape project, which will begin soon. - photo by EDDIE LEDBETTER/staff
    In the works for four years, the Downtown Streetscape project is nearing realization as the City of Statesboro secures a final agreement with the contractor.
    The project, scheduled to start in a month or two, will improve the sidewalks and roads starting at the intersection of Main and Main, move east along East Main and end at the corner of Savannah and Mulberry. Along the way, sidewalks will be replaced, streetlights and landscaping will be added on both sides street and the road will be repaved and striped.
    “Basically we’re looking at a project that includes many little projects within it,” said Mazhar Elhaj, director of the city’s Engineering Department. “Overall, it’s basically a beautification project for the downtown.”
    Brick pavers will play a large role in the beautification project. First, a herringbone pattern of pavers will line the sidewalks along both sides of the street. In addition, bricks will form solider courses around sections of the sidewalk. Then, helping to tie all the elements together, all the crosswalks will feature brick pavers as well.
    What of the existing trees and plants along the project path?
    “For the continuity of the street, (the designers) wanted all drake elms. There are 37 drake elms, all the same age, which will be installed along the route” said Erica Webb, the city’s civil construction inspector and project manager for the Downtown Streetscape project. “Everything that’s existing now will possibly be removed by public works for use somewhere else. Whatever they feel is healthy enough to transplant, they’ll take out before the contractor starts.”
    At one point during the planning of the project, it was thought crosswalks would be raised to help slow down traffic. However, both Elhaj and Webb said this is unnecessary for East Main.
    “Considering the traffic volume on East Main, you don’t need to calm the speed down because the traffic volume dictates (the drivers) slow down,” said Elhaj.
    “Also, we’re going to rely on the aesthetics to be a traffic calming device,” said Webb. “When you see a decorative area in towns that have streetscapes, you tend to slow down,” said Webb.
    One interesting facet of the project that will be transparent to most casual observers, is that the city, in conjunction with Georgia Power, will bury the existing power lines east of Oak Street. Not only will this improve the aesthetics of the street, but Georgia Power will also install electrical outlets in discreet locations along the street that will allow for more live events downtown.
    The time frame for the project, once a contract is signed, is 270 days not including inclement weather. The contract also includes a clause requiring work to stop during the holiday shopping season.
    “We specified in the contract that there will be no work (being done) that will impede the businesses during the holiday months – November and December,” said Webb. “(The contractor) will stop and secure everything for those two months, then pick back up in January.”
    “We care about the downtown business. We know that’s when they make their money - during the holidays.”
    The last hurdle for the city is making sure federal guidelines are being met by the contractors. According to the city, whenever state administered federal grant money is used, a certain percentage of the contract must be awarded to DBE’s — disadvantaged business enterprises — or businesses operated by women or minorities.
    “We don’t get the money from the state unless we have the DBE guidelines met,” said Webb.
    Once phase one of the project is complete, phase two — a similar beautification project planned for West Main from North Main to College — will be finalized. Though the city is still completing the design phase of the project, they have already secured a federal grant and set aside monies in the city budget.
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