Many may be wondering: “What’s with all the construction along North Park, Chamblee Tucker, and Livsey Roads?” Sidewalks are being repaved, crosswalks are being installed, speed humps are being redesigned, and more, all thanks to a $331,000 federal Safe Routes to School grant the Livsey community worked for years to win.
“The project started in 2004,” according to Jane Tanner, who has been called the “champion” for this project. “I was walking my children to school [down Chamblee-Tucker Road] every day, and the whole way to school, every street, every corner, had a curb. You can imagine the difficulty this caused with a stroller or a bike, having to hop on and off every time (‘ba-dump, ba-dump’). There was also no crosswalk along Chamblee-Tucker, even at the school. There were just two lines, but no yellow signs indicating a crosswalk, and only one crossing guard for that ‘T’ intersection.”
“Then, at 1:30 one afternoon, just before school let out, there were police cars and ambulances everywhere. There had been a fatality accident.”
Tanner, concerned for the safety of the community, which is heavy on walkers, joggers, and bike riders, talked to the DeKalb Department of Transportaion (DOT), and they came out and painted crosswalks and put up the yellow crosswalk signs.
Following that, Tanner spoke with PEDS Atlanta, who made her aware of the Safe Routes to School projects. With and being within two miles of each other, as well as the new , Cofer Park, and all close by, and the new in place, the area became a good candidate for the grant.
Safe Routes to School first appeared in the United States in 1997 in Bronx, New York. In 2005, Congress passed legislation that established the National Safe Routes to School progam whose goal is to enable students, primarily those in grades K-8, including the physically disabled, to walk or bike to school safely. The Federal Highway Administration administers the program funds and provides guidance and regulations about SRTS programs, in which millions of dollars have already been allocated.
As part of the grant application process, several community charettes were held during the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years. In these meetings, police, DOT representatives, parents, and neighbors met to brainstorm about how the needs of the community could best be served. As a result of these meetings, the DeKalb DOT realized the need for sidewalks from Kelly Cofer Park to Chamblee-Tucker Road for pedestrian safety. In addition, after homeowners voiced their concerns over speeders, the roundabouts were built on North Park and speed tables were installed on Livsey Road. These were not directly related to the Safe Routes to School grant, but were the result of citizen concerns voiced at the public meetings.
Community efforts in the grant application process included holding monthly official walk to school days, encouraging students to walk on Wednesdays, walking journals for students in which they tracked their walks, and an art contest about walking versus riding to school. Speed studies were conducted, in which the average speed through the school zone on Chamblee Tucker Road was clocked at 40 mph, with some cars driving as fast as 60 mph. Accident counts were consulted, and it was determined that the stretch of Chamblee Tucker Road between Livsey and the QuikTrip gas station had , with 70-90 accidents a year, at least one being a fatality.
After years of research and community involvement and support in the application process, Tanner received word that a $300,000 infrastructure project had been approved.
Of the experience, Tanner said “It was really interesting, this whole process. When people were brainstorming what we would like to have done, the DOT provided us with cost sheets. It was really interesting to look at the problem and find solutions that were both cost effective and did what we wanted them to do.”
The project, which is currently underway, will include the following, according to Joye Burton, Public Information Specialist for DeKalb County Schools:
1) Install bulbouts at the entrances to the school, with a bike pass-through, to better define both the parking areas and entrances, creating safer spaces for all modes of transportation and the school Safety Patrols.
2) Restripe Livsey Rd. in front of the school to define a parking lane and one lane of traffic in each direction.
3) Replace speed table at the mid-block crosswalk in Livsey Rd., above the carpool entrance, with a true raised crosswalk.
4) Repair uneven sidewalks by the school on Livsey Rd.
5) Install wider curb ramps around the school and at intersections between North Park Drive and Livsey Rd. along Chamblee-Tucker Rd.
6) Repaint crosswalks as needed.
7) Install two permanent speed-radar signs on Chamblee Tucker Rd. to assist in speed control.
8) Install sidewalk from Kelly Cofer Park (4259 North Park Drive) to Chamblee Tucker Rd.
9) Upgrade traffic signal at the intersection of Chamblee Tucker Rd. at Livsey Rd. to include countdown pedestrian signal heads.
According to Tanner, Livsey is the first school in Georgia to have a major infrastructure project underway as part of the Safe Routes to School initiative, “so it’s very exciting.” She will continue to work with the DOT as well as the school system as the parent rep throughout the construction process, which is scheduled to be completed in December.