East Clayton Street Improvements Project
East Clayton Street Improvements Project Work Update (April 30, 2021)
Mayor & Commission Approve Streetscape Changes
At a Special Called Meeting on April 20, 2021, the Mayor and Commission approved several changes to the East Clayton Street Improvements project. They also discussed the changes in length at the April 13, 2021 Work Session.
These changes involve planters, sidewalk cafés, road striping, stormwater filtration, overhead lighting, and adding rainbow crosswalks.
The changes include:
- Eliminating planters except at the corners and the bump-outs;
- Replacing this planter space with concrete sidewalk, widening the space for pedestrians, and adding steps, as needed, from curb to sidewalk, to make up elevation changes;
- Reducing the amount of wide thermoplastic road striping by adding motorcycle parking spots and enlarging bump-outs, without moving stormdrains or losing parking;
- Changing the stormwater filtration system to one installed at East Broad Street and the Firefly Trail instead of using planters for this purpose;
- Changing the festoon overhead lighting layout so that it does not cross over the middle of the streets;
- Revising the layout and amount of the thermoplastic road striping;
- Adding rainbow crosswalks at the College and Clayton intersection.
Each change is explained below. The changes are not expected to impact the general overall schedule for the project, which will run primarily through Spring 2022.
The right-of-way for East Clayton Street varies between buildings from 82 feet to 95 feet in this area. Most buildings are very close to the lot lines, so it is very difficult for the right-of way (street and sidewalk area) to be uniform across the entire project area.
The drive lanes are not centered, nor are they parallel to the buildings, making the amount of space available for cafes different between adjacent buildings and between opposite sides of the street. The tightest of spots have less than two feet of space available for sidewalk cafés.
As a result of the approved changes and some recent sidewalk café ordinance changes, sidewalk cafés in the smaller areas will be at least 36” wide on East Clayton Street, while also creating larger areas for pedestrian travel.
The number of planters in the original plans were partially designed for stormwater purposes (see below) and would have required additional staff to maintain them.
The approved change reduces the number of planters. The reduction means significantly less square footage to maintain and are no longer needed for stormwater purposes due to an alternative approach that will be more beneficial to downtown.
Additionally, the reduction in planters will provide easier pedestrian access in some narrower areas of the corridor and easier access to vehicles in parking spaces.
The reduced number of planters will not affect the number of trees planted, as the planters were primarily designed for flowers, grasses, and smaller plants. They will have small concrete curbing and fencing similar to the planters on College Square.
When the previous plans were approved, the final layout for the festoon or catenary lighting was shown to cross back and forth over East Clayton Street.
Since that time, the International Building Code adopted by Georgia in January 2020 has changed and does not allow the catenary/festoon lighting to cross over the street based on our building conditions.
The overarching concern is safety as emergency response vehicles could potentially become entangled in the wiring and rendered inoperable; thus potentially hampering rescue and fire fighting operations.
Because the plans use low-voltage festoon lighting, there is an option to allow the lighting to be hung from pole to pole, parallel to the sidewalk and trees. This option will still allow additional lighting down the sidewalks until the trees reach a large enough size to allow the lighting to be added to the trees.
The previous design used the planters as a water quality treatment for stormwater, which would allow for pressure washing the new streetscape area (approximately 3.31 acres).
Staff has designed an alternative approach for water quality treatment unit to remove trash, oil, and sediment near the downstream outfall in conjunction with the existing underground facility located on East Broad Street at the Firefly Trail entrance.
This water quality treatment unit would be an improvement over using the original planters for water quality and does not depend on water going through the soil under Clayton Street for the cleaning. This alternative approach will continue to allow pressure washing.
In June 2020, the Mayor and Commission approved the installation of a rainbow crosswalk in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. It was funded as part of TSPLOST 2018 at the June 25, 2020 Mayor and Commission meeting with other pedestrian improvements in the College Avenue and East Broad Street area.
The location at the time was not yet determined. The changes adopted will now place the crosswalks at the College Avenue / East Clayton Street intersection. The crosswalks will be installed once the project is completed and East Clayton Street receives its final repaving and striping, likely by spring 2022.
In January 2021, the remaining trees in the area were removed as major construction began in the above ground area.
More trees will be replanted in the area than were removed.
This will occur once the streetscape work is nearly complete. The trees will be planted in better-designed planters with special structural soil. Both are designed for urban landscapes. Planting is expected to take place in late 2021/early 2022.
These trees will include October Glory Red Maples, Avalyn Laurel Oaks, Golden Globe Gingkos, European Hornbeam, Chinese Ironwood, Winter King Hawthorne, and Biloxi Crape Myrtle.
Tree replacement has been a part of the East Clayton Street Improvements Project since the beginning of the project. Many of the former trees were not designed for an urban environment and were not suited for confined spaces. The planters that encase them and the soil used is not as well-designed for this kind of environment as are the currently-designed planters and soil.
New trees better suited to an urban environment will be planted in spaces that are better designed to handle their root systems. These new trees should last for decades, if not longer, without causing the problems of these older ones.
Many of the current trees are also nearing the end of their lifecycle and are not only in decline, but have grown throughout the downtown infrastructure, causing serious issues with sidewalks, utilities, streets, and even buildings.
A similar project removed and replaced the trees on Broad Street and West Clayton Street in the early 2000s, although the streetscape component will be different from those areas.
Public Restroom Facility Survey Open Through June 15
During the Mayor and Commission Work Session on January 12, 2021, the ACCGov Central Services Department presented options for a public restroom(s) in the downtown area.
Staff recommended the Portland Loo, which is a single public toilet developed for use in urban environments with the preferred location being near the College Avenue parking deck and Washington Street.
Although not specifically part of the East Clayton Street Improvements Project, the facility would have an impact on the area.
As part of the process to consider the public restroom, Central Services has developed a public survey for input about some design options and possible features.
A video of the Work Session presentation and discussion of the proposed public restroom facility is available online on the ACCGov YouTube page at www.youtube.com/accgov or through a direct link to the agenda item discussion.
The survey is available at www.accgov.com/surveys through June 15.
Current Streetscape Tentative Schedule
- N. Lumpkin Street to College Avenue - March - August 2021
- College Avenue to Jackson Street - July - October 2021
- Jackson Street to Thomas Street - August 2021 - January 2022
- Jackson Street (Broad Street to Washington Street) - November 2021 - January 2022
- Wall Street - February 2022
Schedule is tentative and subject to change. It is highly dependent on weather and underground factors. More detailed information will be provided in block by block and section by section areas as those areas come closer to construction work.
Project Activity Recap / Overview
- In May 2020, the Transportation and Public Works Department’s Streets and Drainage Division completed the stormwater infrastructure phase of the project. Since that time, private utility companies such as Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia Power have relocated and improved their systems in the area.
- In the summer and fall of 2020, private utility companies such as Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia Power relocated and improved their systems in the area. Some additional utility work will take place throughout the project.
- In September 2020, installation of a conduit duct bank for street lighting, downtown cameras, traffic and pedestrian signals, and other electrical needs started along the length of the corridor. Once installed on the south side of the street, a second conduit duct bank will be installed on the north side. The conduit duct bank installation is expected to run through October 2021.
- In January 2021, streetscape work began on the south side of the first block for sidewalks, curbs, and other ground-level features. A private contractor, Astra Construction, is managing the current and upcoming streetscape phases of the project.
- Once completed, the full East Clayton Street Improvements project will enhance East Clayton Street between North Lumpkin Street and North Thomas Street, as well as North Jackson Street between East Broad Street and East Washington Street.
- The improvements will include better stormwater management and standing water removal, wider sidewalks with fewer pedestrian conflicts, new streetlights, new traffic signals on fewer poles, public art, wider travel lanes for vehicles, changes to metered spaces’ angles to improve safety when reversing out, larger areas for pedestrians to wait for crossing streets, and more trees and landscaping areas.
- The Mayor and Commission approved the streetscape design and the public art component in 2019. The full project is expected to be completed in early 2022.
Restriping of East Clayton Street to 2 Lanes
As part of the continuing East Clayton Street Improvements project, East Clayton Street from North Lumpkin Street to North Thomas Street transitioned to the approved two lane configuration this summer.
The two lane configuration has already been in place on the remainder of Clayton Street for a number of years.
This transition is part of the final design adopted for the corridor. Implementing the change helps vehicles begin to get used to the new configuration and provides safety spacing as Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light continue with utility improvements and as the ACCGov private contractor mobilizes to begin construction efforts on the streetscape.
Although the center lanes will no longer be available for parking for deliveries, vendors and businesses can continue to use existing side street and adjacent block delivery zones.
While the existing parking spaces will remain their current configuration, the angles and depth of the spaces will change as the curbing is adjusted to the new width.
Final paving and striping of the project area will take place towards the completion of the full project, which is expected in 2021.
Eco-Station Areas Coming to Downtown
Related to this project - although separate from it - the ACC Solid Waste Department will be working with this project to install eco-stations in key locations.
Eco-stations are enclosed areas used to gather trash and recycling from businesses and residents in order to avoid bags and recycling being placed directly on the streetscape / sidewalk. Bags left on the curbs leak, are unsightly, cause pedestrian conflicts, and can be a safety hazard.
Eco-stations often have artistic or green components as part of them. ACC Solid Waste is working with the Athens Downtown Development Association (ADDA) and Clayton Street Improvements Project staff on some locations to be included in the streetscape work and working on the process of using the eco-stations. More information will be forthcoming as the designs are approved.
If you have questions in the meantime on the eco-stations, contact the ACC Solid Waste Department at 706-613-3501.
Streetscape Design Approved
The streetscape preliminary design was approved for the Clayton Street Improvements Project by the Mayor and Commission at their February 5, 2019 meeting.
Public Art Concept Approved
Watch an virtual presentation of the public art project by artist Eric Leshinsky from January 2021.
The Mayor and Commission also approved the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission's recommendation for the preliminary concept of the public art component for East Clayton Street on March 5, 2019.
Selected artist Eric Leshinsky, an urban planner, will work to finalize his Clayton Connector public art with staff and the community over the coming months, as the art installation will not occur until towards the end of the project.
The Clayton Connector uses a powder-coated galvanized metal pipe that bends in multiple ways, stops and starts, and creates functional shapes such as benches, bike racks, and other frames, as it moves along the sidewalk within a narrow area that avoids disrupting pedestrian traffic.
Note that schedules referenced on these documents have changed.
The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission approved the Clayton Street area project concept at their Regular Voting Session on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 and the preliminary design at their Regular Voting Session on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 for Clayton Street from Thomas Street to North Lumpkin Street. Wall Street and North Jackson Street from East Broad Street to Washington Street are considered part of the overall project that will be considered during the design planning.
At this meeting, the Mayor & Commission:
- approved the proposed project concept elements for Clayton Street Infrastructure & Transportation Improvements that were included in the agenda item attachment;
- approved the project as appropriate for including public art as per Athens-Clarke County policy and requested by the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission;
- authorized staff to advance the stormwater and other underground infrastructure of the project to be built by Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works staff to the construction phase;
- and authorized staff to begin the preliminary plans design phase and to begin taking public input on the preliminary design.
Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2014 by the ACC Public Utilities Department and included improving water and sewer infrastructure in this area downtown.
Phase 2 of the project is designed to install and improve stormwater facilities and other infrastructure, as well as the streetscape on the East Clayton Street area between Thomas Street and Lumpkin Street.
Phase 2 project work will include:
- pavement/sidewalk removal
- tree replacement
- storm drain installation
- pedestrian lighting installation
- pavement/sidewalk replacement,
- installation of streetscape amenities such as benches, bike racks and planters.
Originally funded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds, the project originally included improvements to the area around City Hall. Phase 2 was put on hold in fall 2015 due to the sole project bid coming in at nearly twice the budgeted amount for the project after the previous bid opportunity received no responses in 2014.
Since 2015, plans were changed to reduce costs by eliminating the City Hall area of the project, leaving only the Clayton Street area, and planning for ACC Transportation and Public Works to obtain the needed equipment and crews to undertake the stormwater and other underground infrastructure internally, thus reducing the cost and risk.
On November 7, 2017, voters in Athens-Clarke County approved the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) program. One of the projects in this program added funding to the original SPLOST funds for the Clayton Street area project, which has enabled the project to move forward in early 2018 into the planning stage and, beginning on June 18, 2018, the construction stage.