Council approves corridor plan

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

LaGRANGE – The City of LaGrange just took a big step towards beautifying the city’s gateways thanks the the approval of a new plan.

On Tuesday, the city council voted to approve its corridor plan, the first step in a plan that council hopes will greatly improve the gateways to LaGrange.

“The action item tonight would be to adopt the plan,” said Mayor Jim Thornton during discussion at an earlier work session Tuesday. “That does not commit to any specific project. It does not commit any money. It just goes and puts the council on record as saying yes we like this plan, and we would like the staff to work to see what could be done and what would be the next steps and to bring actual concrete proposals forward that council could debate or consider.”

Thornton emphasized that the council may not end up following the priorities listed by the developers of the corridor plan, but approving the plan will give the city staff direction on the project so that they can determine possible implementation and funding.

“I have talked to several people… who were very excited to see that we were looking at that area of Whitesville (Road) between Morgan (Street) and Lukken (Industrial Drive) as being a priority area. That has a lot of traffic now and is probably going to get even more traffic as Great Wolf and some of that develops on the south side.”

Thornton expressed a desire for the city to discuss the plan with the property owners along that section of road in hopes of gaining their help and cooperation with the plan as it goes through the process of refinement and implementation. The corridor plan will affect businesses in some areas more than others, but council hopes that it will improve conditions for local companies by creating attractive landscaping along the roads beside their properties and hopefully in turn increase business. Thornton expressed hopes that businesses – especially businesses along Whitesville Road – would step up and voluntarily make investments in improving their properties in light of the council’s plans to invest in the corridor.

“There are a lot of business interests (on LaFayette Parkway),” said Senior Planner Leigh Threadgill. “But on that stretch from Davis Road back towards town, there are a lot of opportunities right on that segment, especially as you get closer to town… So, there are some opportunities on the parkway, but there are also some challenges.”

The medians that show up throughout the plan could be a tough sell to local businesses because it would change where customers will be able to turn to enter. Council was sensitive to that issue and the effects the medians could have.

“That is primarily what I’m concerned about – the commercial – the impact of having a median on someone choosing to go into a business, and the comparison I made in my mind was Bullsboro Drive (in Newnan) has median all the way,” said Councilman Tom Gore. “It is hard, if you are on one end, if you miss the location that you are going to, you have to go way down there, turn around, come way back with some long traffic lights.”

But even with the commercial concerns, the council had to prioritize the safety of the people driving on the roads above all else, especially on the sections of road that have seen many accidents in the past, council members said.

“You’ve got people – especially senior citizens – trying to come out of Chick-fil-a, trying to turn left across five lanes, and we’ve had so many accidents,” said Councilman Mark Mitchell. “The same thing on the (north side) where the gas station is. To me, safety takes priority over them being delayed for a few minutes to go down and loop.”

Even if the city took no action to create medians, there is a possibility that the Georgia Department of Transportation could install concrete medians on some of the busier, more congested sections of corridor roads, like LaFayette Parkway.

“The (Department of Transportation) is really a big advocate of what they call switch back lanes – which is basically a forced U-turn – for that same reason that Mark (Mitchell) identified,” said Thornton. “They don’t want people making left hand turns. They’d rather them go right and then switch back, so this might be outside of our control anyway because the DOT is very concerned about that segment of road and the number of crashes, so they may come in and impose some of this whether we like it or not, and my fear would be that if they come in and do it, it’s going to be concrete barriers, whereas we can go in and maybe do landscaped barriers (and) make it more attractive.”

According to City Manager Meg Kelsey, the DOT has expressed interest in LaGrange’s corridor plan, especially the possible safety improvements that the medians would provide. The city discussed additional traffic lights on that section of road near the mall previously, but were unable to determine a good location due to the sheer number of entrances and exits between the mall and the highway.

Thornton mentioned the possibility of funding for sections of the corridors being included on the SPLOST vote if the SPLOST is included on November’s ticket, but more information would be required before they could make a request for funding.

The city council also set the qualifying fees for the council members at $218 and the mayor at $288 at the meeting. The fees are 3 percent of salary and are required to be set this year because of the election scheduled to take place in November.

The city council is scheduled to meet again on Jan. 24 at 5:30 p.m. at 200 Ridley Ave.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.


For previous coverage of the corridors see City reviews plan for improved corridors.