Remington Avenue project scope narrows

May 9—THOMASVILLE- City Council members heard an update on the Remington Avenue project on Wednesday afternoon that would scale back the proposed $22 million upgrades, including sidewalks, beautification, and planting to a mere $3 million, including only the necessary asphalt paving, traffic calming devices, and roundabouts.

According to Executive Director of Engineering and Inspections Mark Harmon, the Remington Avenue project has been the talk of the town for quite some time.

"The origin of this project began in 2018," he said. "When we initially looked at the scope of this project, it was largely a road project that dealt with surface conditions and traffic calming along the thoroughfare."

However, with the excitement surrounding the roadway repair, the project grew dramatically to include beautification, sidewalk connectivity to parks, and stormwater upgrades.

"Originally, we forecasted this project to be $8-9 million, but it grew to be well over $22 million with the expanse in project scope and the inflation during COVID-19," Harmon said. "After intense scrutiny by staff, we have settled on a framework to revisit the project as it started, which is for transportation only."

Harmon told the Council that the decision was simple. The Engineering and Inspections Department planned to strip everything that could be added in the future while focusing on the core ideas that were necessary to improve the roadway.

The new plan proposed roadway condition improvement, intersection safety enhancements, traffic flow improvements, and traffic calming devices.

The new plan's road striping would begin at Kern and Smith and carry through East Pinetree, with a significant "road diet," as Harmon described.

The roadway would still be three lanes at the intersection, with the intersection changing at Smith.

"This allows for a sidewalk and relaxing of the road and controlling of the traffic in toward the roundabout," Harmon said. "This two-lane would continue until you get to the roundabout."

The roundabout would include sidewalks in and around it, along with refuge areas in the controlled islands.

"You have connectivity all the way around and out to Smith Avenue," Harmon said.

This roundabout would be smaller than the one originally proposed, saving millions of dollars, while still adhering to the GDOT specifications.

Heading in the opposite direction, drivers traveling downtown from Remington will be forced to use the righthand lane as a turn only into the drive of Dunkin' Donuts or Urgent Care.

"Across the street, there is still some question whether or not there will be some reconnection of the drives coming out of the service station there," Harmon said. "They have access to the connectivity on Pinetree, but we are still negotiating to remove the drive with them that is most problematic."

Harmon is hopeful this will alleviate accidents in the area, as data shows over two years, 57% of accidents that occurred on Remington took place in this high-traffic area.

Through studies, Harmon and his team realized that traffic accidents have primarily been caused due to vehicles trying to re-enter the roadway from an exit. They have added a concrete island that runs past the exit for Thomasville National Bank so that all the drives can only turn right in and right out.

This right-in-right-out will include the entrance to the park, which Harmon said is being relocated to the other side of the picnic area.

"We think all of this will help with the ease of traffic," Harmon said. "We understand it won't solve it completely, but neither would a roundabout."

Harmon said he understands this is not what everyone had hoped for during the original process, but his job is to make sure the basic needs are met, which is why this scope is a sweet spot, with some of the original work, i.e. roundabout, and paving, being included and landscaping later added.

While the City Council understood that the scope of the project had been narrowed, City Councilman Scott Chastain was disappointed to hear about the removal of the sidewalk from the current plan.

"While I agree people want resurfacing, ever since we started this conversation pedestrian safety has been up at the same level of concern as resurfacing, so presenting sidewalks as an add-on and not a necessity is giving a disservice to our community and what we've talked about with our community," Chastain said. "If a sidewalk costs $2 million to put in, I will fight for it."

Harmon told Chastain no one disagreed that a sidewalk was important, but for the time being, it was simply a matter of numbers.

"I think if we can get the speed down, we can start adding legs of sidewalk every successive year," Harmon said.

Chastain said he understands this is a first reading of the new plan, but would love to see a thorough review of the ideas.