Statesboro city leaders made clear Friday their intent to improve traffic and pedestrian safety in the upcoming fiscal year.
In an all-day budget-planning retreat, at Georgia Southern University’s City Campus downtown, department heads announced various road projects designed to alleviate dangers associated with problematic intersections and high-volume student crossings within the city.
The group detailed a series of SPLOST-funded ventures that are projected to cost more than $1 million over the course of the 2013 fiscal year (begins July 1, 2012).
A bulk of the funds, according to Statesboro City Engineer Robert Cheshire, will pay for the construction of sidewalks on roadways situated near Georgia Southern University, filtering would-be-jaywalking students to areas designated for crossing to the school’s campus.
The construction of several new student-oriented apartment complexes along U.S. Highway 301 South has made the need for new paths an even greater, and immediate, concern, Cheshire said.
“The crossings and calming measures around the campus will only become more important as the university continues to build out,” said City Councilman Will Britt. “We need to look at it now. This is a project that directly affects public safety and it takes priority. It needs to be done.”
“I have seen close calls, almost major accidents, every single day,” said City Manager Frank Parker. “People often don’t pay enough attention when they cross.”
One way officials plan to guide students to designated crossing areas, like a traffic signal located at Rucker Lane, is by constructing sidewalks along Highway 301 to lead them. Approximately $100,000 will be set aside in the 2013 budget to investigate and install traffic calming measures in the area.
Another $125,000 will be used to construct a sidewalk connecting Rucker Lane to South Main Street.
On another side of campus, the city is planning a $340,000 project to construct a sidewalk next to Gentilly Road, improving students’ ability to reach campus without driving, and connecting the S&S Greenway trail on Gentilly to sidewalks running alongside Fair Road.
“We are very excited about that project, and I know a lot of members of City Council are as well,” Cheshire said. “It will be a good project, especially considering how popular the (S&S Greenway) has become. We will be able to tie the greenway into Georgia Southern and sidewalks leading to the Willie McTell Trail downtown.”
To help lessen the traffic issues for residents behind the wheel, city officials also discussed plans to improve a pair of intersections and install new traffic signals.
According to Cheshire, approximately $530,000 will be budgeted to improve the W. Grady St. and College St. intersection, and the crossroads at Fair Road and South Zetterower Avenue.
At West Grady and College St., lanes will be widened to make turns less sharp, Cheshire said.
And a traffic study is currently underway to determine what changes will be made at the Fair and South Zetterower location.
Also during 2013, new traffic signals will be installed at two areas in “serious need” of them, according to Cheshire.
The city’s engineering department has budgeted approximately $275,000 to place traffic lights at the Brannen Street entrance to Walmart and where Brampton Avenue meets the Veterans Memorial Parkway (Highway 301 bypass).
City Council will vote next week on a motion to install the Veterans Memorial light.
The signal on Brannen is hoped to functional by next summer, Cheshire said.
According to current numbers, the city is projected to finish the 2012 fiscal year within budget, and have a balanced book again in 2013.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.