W&A Engineering is proud to partner with the Athens-Clarke County Department of Transportation and Public Works on the development of the Local Road Safety Plan and as a community stakeholder of the recently announced Vision Zero Program—a systems-based approach to improving road safety through safer street design, speed management, and other proven strategies.
The goal of the Vision Zero Program is simple—eliminate all traffic fatalities and serious injuries while increasing safe, healthy, and equitable mobility for all. At the forefront of this program is Vision Zero Transportation Planner Shirelle Hallum, MPH, who joined Athens-Clarke County Unified Government in September 2022.
“What we’re hoping to prevent is people going to work and not coming home,” said Hallum when describing the mission of the program. “We want to create a safe, accessible, and consistent transportation network where all Athens-Clarke County residents are connected to the resources they need to thrive.”
Currently in the early stages of development, the Vision Zero Program has already launched numerous initiatives to create actionable change in the community. Active sub-programs under Vision Zero include ACCGov Traffic Engineering’s new and improved Neighborhood Traffic Management Program targeting residential roads, the Safe Routes to Schools Program identifying short, mid-range, and long-term solutions to failing infrastructure in the Clarke County School District, and the Local Road Safety Plan partnering with stakeholders throughout the county to make locally-owned roads as safe as possible.
“At W&A Engineering and throughout the Better Communities Collaborative family, we want our design professionals to utilize proactive design solutions that improve safety for all users of the community’s transportation network.” says Buck Bacon, W&A Engineering’s Government and Community Services Director.
Throughout the Local Road Safety Plan development process, W&A Engineering partnered with local leaders and program officials to share our insights on design and project management as traffic and transportation engineering experts. Other program partners include Athens in Motion, Bike Athens, Envision Athens, the University of Georgia, the Athens Housing Authority, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, the Clarke County School District, the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, the Federal Highway Administration, and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Safety and mobility solutions identified to date include the design and implementation of traffic circles and roundabouts at problematic intersections, traffic-calming chicanes, and the maintenance or replacement of failing infrastructure.
Currently, there are over forty fully controlled intersections in Athens-Clarke County with outdated and at-end-of-service-life infrastructure. Similarly, many roadways through Athens are “dangerous by design,” meaning that the way in which the roadways were originally designed and engineered are fundamentally dangerous and induce a false sense of “perceived safety.”
Perceived safety is the feeling that one is completely safe while on a roadway, which often causes a decrease in driver attention and an increase in driving speed—two of the top causes of car accidents in the United States today. The roads which contribute most to an inflated sense of perceived safety are long, straight multi-lane roads without obvious elements like landscaped medians, traffic lights, or signage which cause the driver to remain consistently engaged and present, such as Lexington Highway.
“A lot of the roads we have in Athens are too wide, too straight, and too much like a racetrack,” said Hallum. “We want to create steady, predictable movement without speeding. We are not aiming for fast; we are aiming for safe and consistent.”
In late 2022, the Athens-Clarke County Vision Zero Program received a $1 million Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant to support its development and implementation. The SS4A grant will be used to develop a Vizion Zero Action Plan and inform a Speed Management Toolkit, Safe Routes to Schools program, and an Intersection Improvement program among other safety initiatives. SS4A funs will also be used to pilot out quick-build pilot treatments throughout the county.
Similarly, Athens-Clarke County was awarded a $25 million RAISE grant through the US Department of Transportation to reimagine North Avenue—a multi-faceted project which will feature design criteria and guidelines for new bus stops, upgraded signals, drainage improvements, and more guided by the Vision Zero Program and Complete Streets Policy.
Vision Zero Program next steps include continued coordination with local stakeholders, the finalization and publication of the Local Road Safety Plan and several other design guidelines for Athens-Clarke County, and the execution of several traffic-calming pilot programs in identified priority areas. Vision Zero Program next steps include continued coordination with local stakeholders, the finalization and publication of the Local Road Safety Plan and several other design guidelines for Athens-Clarke County, and the execution of several traffic-calming pilot programs in identified priority areas. In May, the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission voted to approve the Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program proposal for permanent traffic-calming infrastructure in ten neighborhoods and pilot programs in sixteen other neighborhoods.