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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2007
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Decatur drivers may see more green, less red
Council to vote on $80,000 consultant contract to reset traffic lights to accommodate drive-time flow

By Chris Paschenko
chris@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

May all my traffic lights be green. That's every commuter's dream.

Although the Decatur City Council can't keep drivers from seeing red, a yes vote next week for an $80,000 traffic consultant's contract could make cross-town trips a lot less stop and much more go. The council will meet Monday.

Councilman Ronny Russell said traffic lights on U.S. 31 — known to locals as Sixth Avenue Southeast — and Beltline Road haven't been reset to better accommodate drive-time flow in 14 years. Those two highways are the city's most populated retail thoroughfares.

On Nov. 6, the council approved spending up to $90,000 on the project, which includes $20,000 promised from the state Department of Transportation.

"It is my opinion that it is a needed and critical action that the city must take," Russell said.

The contract with Skipper Consulting Inc. of Birmingham includes fieldwork, traffic counts, analysis, documentation, implementation and fine-tuning of traffic-signal coordination at 40 intersections.

Mayor Don Kyle said the project would be completed in two phases.

"There are times where there seem to be extended waits at intersections when there's no traffic coming across," Kyle said. "That's the kind of thing we're trying to eliminate ... waiting to trip the traffic loop to go on through."

City officials haven't discussed a time frame for the project but have expressed the desire to complete the U.S. 31/Beltline Road intersection before the anticipated October opening of a nearby Target retail shopping center. The scope of the project covers U.S. 31 from Wilson Street Northeast to Cedar Lake Road Southeast and Beltline Road from Country Club Road Southeast to Old Moulton Road.

The consultant also plans to study Danville Road Southwest from Stone River Drive to Westmead Street.

Russell said part of the project's second phase that extends north of Danville Road would be delayed by the DOT's plan to begin widening Beltline Road from four to six lanes.

Kyle said the project could have additional costs if the consultant finds damaged traffic-control equipment or recommends installing additional equipment.

Some Decatur drivers have said the thoroughfares aren't congested compared to those in larger cities.

"But if we can improve it, why not improve it?" Kyle said. "I suspect there will be some that think (the project) hasn't improved it."

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