Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Traffic signal at Line Creek tabled for further study


By Pat Cooper

After listening to residents’ feelings about a proposed traffic light at the intersection of Line Creek and Highway 54, the Peachtree City council opted to table the discussion for two more weeks to do further study and to allow residents more time to make their own comments.
It won’t be the first time the council has tabled the discussion or that residents have come down in opposition.
According to Trinity Development partner Jim Lowe, the group and the city have been working on this project since 2007. This time around, he said, he believed he had “come back with a good plan tha has taken years to develop.
“A real plan,” he noted, during a power point presentation of the project, pointing to the boxes that indicate retail establishments on the development plat. “Each one of those is a top quality, national tenant. After years of discussion with past councils about bringinging in quality tenants, we have that.” Lowe declined to mention names.
Thursday night, Lowe was presenting his request to the city for a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 54 and Line Creek, where the development will be located, and offering up the traffic study that Trinity Development has paid for, at the request of the council, to substantiate the request. Only the city, not the developer, can make such a request.
The traffic problems on S.R. 54 west of Highway 74 have provided city residents with tightly congested traffic, the intersection having the highest incident of traffic accidents - in an almost two to one margin - then any other intersection in the city.
In response to some of the problems, two weeks ago the council approved a $70,000 traffic study along the 54 corridor, ranging from Willowbend Road to the as-yet-uncompleted MacDuff Parkway.
The data will include: 24-hour bidirectional traffic volume count with vehicle classification and speed study
for: SR 54 West of Planterra Way (for weekday and Saturday); SR 74 North of SR 54 (for weekday and Saturday); 24-hour bidirectional traffic volume count for Line Creek Drive south of SR 54 (for weekday and Saturday); MacDuff Parkway north of SR 54 (for weekday and Saturday); City Circle south of SR 54 (for weekday and Saturday); Clover Reach- north intersection- west of SR 74 (for weekday and Saturday). Additionally, Weekday PM Peak Period (4-6 PM) and Saturday Midday Peak Period (1 2 pm-2pm) Turning Movement Counts with Pedestrians at SR 54 at MacDuff Parkway; SR 54 at Line Creek Drive (unsignalized); SR 54 at Planterra Way; SR 54 at Huddleston Road; SR 54 at Market Place Boulevard; SR 54 a SR 74; SR 54 at West Park Walk (unsignalized); SR 54 at Willow Bend Road/Northlake Drive; SR 54 at Willow Bend Road/Flat Creek Road; SR 74 at Clover Reach; SR 74 at West Park Drive.
The city is also getting ready for the Georgia Department of Transportation to implement an adaptive traffic synchronization program in the spring - they are taking traffic counts now - that should help traffic by timing lights with the flow of traffic, rather than with standard timing movements.
Lowe said that a traffic signal application had already been approved by the GDOT in 2006. At that time, the city submitted Lowe’s request for a traffic signal.
“The state reviewed it and, after six months of study, issued the permit.”
However, because of the time frame and the fact that the development couldn’t go forward with tenants at that time, the signal permit was rescinded.
Currently, the development area is already going to be home to a new Racetrac, which is in the construction phase and a fast food restaurant. The second thought-to-be confirmed tenant was Chik-fil-A, but the food chain hasn’t yet signed a contract. Lowe did say, however, that there would be some sort of restaurant in that location-as they have been receiving a lot of interest-, though they’re hoping Chik-fil-A signs the contract.
Additionally, with every store pegged for interest being under 32,000 square feet- including a major grocery store of 25,000 square feet- there will be no request for a special use permit.
Lowe said there are plans for a ‘significant’ buffer at the rear of the property for the second portion of the discussion; a third point of the development plan was to cut in a connection to the Planterra subdivision.
“We’ve talked about the pros and cons. The individual tenants are attracted, they’ve seen the site plan, helped us to prepare it, but they are interested in seeing the signal and the connection.”
The site plan proposes a private road connection across the city-owned property to connect the development to Planterra Way. The property required for the road connection can be sold or swapped for a tract of land of equal or greater value.
Lowe’s traffic study indicated that though traffic patterns were acceptable for today’s development, by the time the project opens in 2015, that will no longer be the case. The existing traffic conditions at Line Creek Drive, Planterra Way and MacDuff Parkway consists of several movements of Level of Service (LOS) ratings of ‘F’. Staff fully expects that signal at Line Creek drive will increase delays on S.R. 54 during peak times.
The one problem that was evident at the first was the fact that putting a signal at Line Creek doesn’t meet the GDOT distance standards between traffic signals. Lowe’s traffic engineer acknowledged it would be a problem, but that the area meets the warrants the state has laid out for requesting a signal.
“We’ve done what the city asked us to do,” said Lowe. “You asked us to get quality tenants; the tenants have asked that we have a signal here and we are asking you to send that request.”
Councilmember Kim Learnard agreed that Lowe had done everything they requested, but still voted to table the matter, especially since the council hadn’t yet had the opportunity to review the traffic study themselves. Four years ago, she said, she had turned down the development presented to the council because it called for a traffic light at the same intersection.
“But, what I’m saying is, we cannot, in good conscience, say we don’t like it without also asking ourselves, if not this, then what? That’s the question we forgot to ask ourselves four years ago. That’s how we wound up with a Racetrac. If we want quality, we have to work with the developer.”
This area is zoned general commercial, she noted and “there are a lot of evils we need to watch out for.”
Councilman Terry Ernst also pointed out that even if the city said no, the DOT could still say yes.
“It’s their final decision.”
Learnard said that no matter what, the traffic situation in Planterra has to be a number one priority for the council.
Councilman Eric Imker noted that there were a lot of issues involved, including the city’s own liability for not putting a light in, even though he didn’t support it.
“Every decision we make has risks.”
The traffic signal request didn’t meet with any support from residents of Planterra Ridge or the Cardiff Park subdivisions, as homeowners of the area packed the room.
County commission chairman Steve Brown, who lives in the Planterra subdivision, noted there were “no easy decisions on Highway 54 West.
“We are now in a position where 54 and 74 are in critically poor condition. Look at the drive times. It can back up along 54 to the Wyndham [Conference Center located on Highway 54 west, just on the eastern side of Willowbend Drive]. There are very few solutions and it’s a much wider problem than just this intersection.
“We need to take the whole picture into view. The concerns are on the ancillary roads- in order to keep the slow going, we’re going to have to stall traffic on those ancillary roads. The spacing doesn’t meet the DOT standards. There is a reason for the standards, to keep traffic flow at good levels. When it comes to modeling, you can make models say whatever you want and you need to take that into advisement.”
Planterra resident Karen Russell said in 2007 several members of the council were opposed to a cut-through to Planterra, and hoped they were not considering. She called for a public hearing, “so that you can hear from all the residents of Planterra Ridge, one that is not limited to 15 minutes for each side,” since they had less than a week’s notice about this meeting.
“I’m also sorry to hear that Mr. Lowe has taken out the proposed connection to MacDuff Crossing. The planning commission said it was relevant. And the council said it was relevant. The planning commission said that this was a priority.
“If Jim is serious and this council is serious, I suggest you don’t vote for the traffic light or any type of road abandonment until that’s put back in the plan. It’s not going to help forcing more traffic back out on to 54.”
Additionally, said Russell, in March of last year, Lowe met with her and Cardiff Park homeowner association president Tim Lidell, and worked through a compromise which would put a connection to the MacDuff Parkway, but only as a right turn in and no right turn out to bring traffic back through the subdivision. That compromise would utilize the light at Planterra and not need a light at Line Creek. He was asked to come back with an answer to that.
“We’ve yet to hear back from Mr. Lowe.”
“I’m not a traffic engineer,” said Iola Snow of Vermillion Lane, “but just good common sense tells me what I see everyday-- we have 50 to 100 cars coming through the subdivision from the industrial park every day. It can take 15 minutes to get out of the subdivision, and that’s only after we get past the entryway to the tennis center. If we’re going to have a cut through, I don’t know where those cars are going to go. I don’t want them going through the subdivision. I plead with you for the 435 homeowners in the subdivision. How would you like to have that in your subdivision? The cut into Planterra has to go.”
Mayor Vanessa Fleisch said it was pretty clear that residents didn’t want them to make the decision that night and suggested the council table the matter for two weeks for further study and to allow residents to comment on the process.
One thing the council did agree on was allowing the city staff to start working on an abandonment process for the roads and rights-of-way for Line Creek Drive and Line Creek Court. An appraisal of the property estimates the market value at $100,000.
The request for the connection to Planterra and for the signal were put off until the February 20th meeting.


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