East Clayton Street Improvements Project
East Clayton Street Improvements Project Work Update (September 14)
The next phase of work on the East Clayton Street Improvements Project will begin the week of September 14, 2020 to prepare for the installation of new electrical conduit in the corridor. This conduit will be used for street lighting, downtown cameras, traffic and pedestrian signals, and other electrical needs.
In order to prepare for the conduit installation and the upcoming streetscape work along the length of the entire corridor, the remaining trees in the area of East Clayton Street between North Thomas Street and North Lumpkin Street will be removed in the coming weeks. Once the streetscape work is completed, more trees will be replanted in the corridor than what is in the area currently.
Tree replacement has been a part of the East Clayton Street Improvements Project since the beginning of the project. Many of the trees planted in the corridor now were not designed for an urban environment and were not suited for confined spaces. The planters that encase them and the soil used is not as well-designed for this kind of environment as are current planters and soil.
New trees better suited to an urban environment will be planted in spaces that are better designed to handle their root systems. These new trees should last for decades, if not longer, without causing the problems of these older ones.
Many of the current trees are also nearing the end of their lifecycle and are not only in decline, but have grown throughout the downtown infrastructure, causing serious issues with sidewalks, utilities, streets, and even buildings.
Some trees have already been removed during the project due to safety concerns or as work impacted them. The extensive work involved with replacing and improving the underground infrastructure and streetscape that is 100 years old in places is not possible without seriously damaging or killing the existing trees and requires tree removal.
A similar project removed and replaced the trees on Broad Street and West Clayton Street in the early 2000s, although the streetscape component will be different from those areas.
Initially, the trees will be removed as close as possible to ground level. As work progresses, final removal will involve carefully removing the stumps and underground roots that typically have intertwined with other underground utilities. This process requires a surgical process to avoid damaging existing utilities that potentially impact services to the area.
“Between our commercial composting facility, vibrant artisan community, mulch providers, and firewood consumers, it is very rare for wood from Athens-Clarke County to not find a second life,” says Central Services Director and former Sustainability Officer Andrew Saunders.
Because of the unique nature of the Clayton Street trees due to their history, species, and growth patterns, Central Services is working with the Leisure Services Arts Division to divert some of these trees to local artists.
Completing the tree removal and installation of electrical conduit along the entire project length at once will allow the upcoming streetscape portion of the work to focus on smaller construction areas instead of working in the whole corridor at the same time.
Tree removal and conduit installation are planned for completion by the end of 2020. Work during the holiday season in November and December is currently planned for side streets and areas with fewer retail locations in order to have less impact on retail businesses on East Clayton Street.
The streetscape portion of the work is scheduled to begin in January 2021 and will take place on smaller sections of the corridor at a time. More details and timeframes will be available this fall related to the streetscape segments.
Update on Completed / Ongoing Work
- In May 2020, the Transportation and Public Works Department’s Streets and Drainage Division completed the stormwater infrastructure phase of the project. Since that time, private utility companies such as Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia Power have relocated and improved their systems in the area. Some of Atlanta Gas Light’s work will continue over the next few weeks.
- East Clayton Street was also restriped this summer from its former three lane alignment to the new two lane alignment to match the rest of the corridor. A final paving and restriping will take place at the end of the project.
- A private contractor, Astra Construction, is managing the current and upcoming streetscape phases of the project. Once completed, the full East Clayton Street Improvements project will enhance East Clayton Street between North Lumpkin Street and North Thomas Street, as well as North Jackson Street between East Broad Street and East Washington Street.
- The improvements will include better stormwater management and standing water removal, wider sidewalks with fewer pedestrian conflicts, new streetlights, new traffic signals on fewer poles, public art, wider travel lanes for vehicles, changes to metered spaces’ angles to improve safety when reversing out, larger areas for pedestrians to wait for crossing streets, and more trees and landscaping areas.
- The Mayor and Commission approved the streetscape design and the public art component in 2019. The full project is expected to be completed in early 2022.
Restriping of East Clayton Street to 2 Lanes
As part of the continuing East Clayton Street Improvements project, East Clayton Street from North Lumpkin Street to North Thomas Street transitioned to the approved two lane configuration this summer.
The two lane configuration has already been in place on the remainder of Clayton Street for a number of years.
This transition is part of the final design adopted for the corridor. Implementing the change helps vehicles begin to get used to the new configuration and provides safety spacing as Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light continue with utility improvements and as the ACCGov private contractor mobilizes to begin construction efforts on the streetscape.
Although the center lanes will no longer be available for parking for deliveries, vendors and businesses can continue to use existing side street and adjacent block delivery zones.
While the existing parking spaces will remain their current configuration, the angles and depth of the spaces will change as the curbing is adjusted to the new width.
Final paving and striping of the project area will take place towards the completion of the full project, which is expected in 2021.
Georgia Power Work Finishes & Atlanta Gas Light Work Continues
Georgia Power finished its extensive work on 14 underground power vaults and manholes in the area in order to adjust their elevations for the new streetscape and change out covers. Some were located in the sidewalks, some were located in the street, and some are located in both areas.
Atlanta Gas Light has been moving and changing gas main and service lines throughout the corridor. As a private utility, they will contact businesses and/or property owners along the area to schedule re-establishing gas service. This project is expected to end by October.
Sidewalk restrictions, pedestrian rerouting, parking space closures, and lane restrictions/closures will take place to various levels depending on the areas of the utility locations. No full road closures are detours planned at this time.
The streetscape contractor, Astra Group, will work with both utilities to make sure the sidewalks and streets are patched temporarily and are safe for use until the new streetscape is installed.
Streetscape Work Notes
The Astra Group was selected in summer 2019 to work on the pre-planning, coordination of utility conflict resolution, and construction of the streetscape component of the project.
Our ACCGov project ambassador, Mr. Dana Garrison, works as a business liaison for the entire project.
The entire streetscape effort includes underground infrastructure needed to support items such as street lights and traffic signals, as well as hardscape surface elements such as curb and gutter, sidewalk replacement, and other above-ground elements such as landscaping, bike racks, benches, lights, public art, and other items.
- Some initial streetscape work such as surveying and "potholing" for new traffic signal locations took place in April 2020.
- Work is expected to largely be done in sections by block along the corridor.
- The initial work will involve the demolition of existing streetscape and the replacement to 75-80% of completion.
- Pedestrian paths will be maintained during these times.
- Final completion to 100% - landscaping and paving - will be done towards the end of the project in larger segments.
Eco-Station Areas Coming to Downtown
Related to this project - although separate from it - the ACC Solid Waste Department will be working with this project to install eco-stations in key locations.
Eco-stations are enclosed areas used to gather trash and recycling from businesses and residents in order to avoid bags and recycling being placed directly on the streetscape / sidewalk. Bags left on the curbs leak, are unsightly, cause pedestrian conflicts, and can be a safety hazard.
Eco-stations often have artistic or green components as part of them. ACC Solid Waste is working with the Athens Downtown Development Association (ADDA) and Clayton Street Improvements Project staff on some locations to be included in the streetscape work and working on the process of using the eco-stations. More information will be forthcoming as the designs are approved.
If you have questions in the meantime on the eco-stations, contact the ACC Solid Waste Department at 706-613-3501.
Streetscape Design Approved
The streetscape preliminary design was approved for the Clayton Street Improvements Project by the Mayor and Commission at their February 5, 2019 meeting.
Public Art Concept Approved
The Mayor and Commission also approved the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission's recommendation for the preliminary concept of the public art component for East Clayton Street on March 5, 2019.
Selected artist Eric Leshinsky, an urban planner, will work to finalize his Clayton Connector public art with staff and the community over the coming months, as the art installation will not occur until towards the end of the project.
The Clayton Connector uses a powder-coated galvanized metal pipe that bends in multiple ways, stops and starts, and creates functional shapes such as benches, bike racks, and other frames, as it moves along the sidewalk within a narrow area that avoids disrupting pedestrian traffic.
Overall Clayton Street Improvements Project Timeline
General tentative project schedule (updated September 14, 2020):
- Pre-Dig Phase (for Stormwater System) - June 18 - Nov. 1, 2018 - completed Oct. 2019
- Private Utility Relocations & Adjustments - Ongoing
- Stormwater System Installation by Athens-Clarke County - completed April 2020
- Streetscape Installation by Private Contractor - Summer 2020 - Winter 2022
Note that schedules referenced on these documents have changed.
The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission approved the Clayton Street area project concept at their Regular Voting Session on Tuesday, January 2, 2018 and the preliminary design at their Regular Voting Session on Tuesday, June 5, 2018 for Clayton Street from Thomas Street to North Lumpkin Street. Wall Street and North Jackson Street from East Broad Street to Washington Street are considered part of the overall project that will be considered during the design planning.
At this meeting, the Mayor & Commission:
- approved the proposed project concept elements for Clayton Street Infrastructure & Transportation Improvements that were included in the agenda item attachment;
- approved the project as appropriate for including public art as per Athens-Clarke County policy and requested by the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission;
- authorized staff to advance the stormwater and other underground infrastructure of the project to be built by Athens-Clarke County Transportation and Public Works staff to the construction phase;
- and authorized staff to begin the preliminary plans design phase and to begin taking public input on the preliminary design.
Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2014 by the ACC Public Utilities Department and included improving water and sewer infrastructure in this area downtown.
Phase 2 of the project is designed to install and improve stormwater facilities and other infrastructure, as well as the streetscape on the East Clayton Street area between Thomas Street and Lumpkin Street.
Phase 2 project work will include:
- pavement/sidewalk removal
- tree replacement
- storm drain installation
- pedestrian lighting installation
- pavement/sidewalk replacement,
- installation of streetscape amenities such as benches, bike racks and planters.
Originally funded through Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds, the project originally included improvements to the area around City Hall. Phase 2 was put on hold in fall 2015 due to the sole project bid coming in at nearly twice the budgeted amount for the project after the previous bid opportunity received no responses in 2014.
Since 2015, plans were changed to reduce costs by eliminating the City Hall area of the project, leaving only the Clayton Street area, and planning for ACC Transportation and Public Works to obtain the needed equipment and crews to undertake the stormwater and other underground infrastructure internally, thus reducing the cost and risk.
On November 7, 2017, voters in Athens-Clarke County approved the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) program. One of the projects in this program added funding to the original SPLOST funds for the Clayton Street area project, which has enabled the project to move forward in early 2018 into the planning stage and, beginning on June 18, 2018, the construction stage.