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Posted on: August 15, 2022

ACCGov Receives $25 Million RAISE Grant for North Avenue Corridor Improvements

ACCGov Receives $25 Million RAISE Grant for North Avenue Corridor Improvements

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced on August 11, 2022 that Athens-Clarke County has received a nearly $25 million grant to improve the safety and connectivity of the North Avenue corridor for the Reimagine North Avenue project. The project will make complete street improvements along North Avenue from downtown Athens at the intersection of North Avenue and Willow Street to State Route Loop 10 (SR-10) at the intersection of Old Hull Road and Northcrest Drive.

In conjunction with the project, ACCGov will also collaborate with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to replace the North Avenue bridge over SR-10 and extend complete street connectivity to the Collins Industrial Boulevard and Freeman Drive intersection and beyond.

"This project will create a permanent benefit to the thousands of families who live along the North Avenue corridor, particularly those for whom safe access to the center of Athens was blocked by complete lack of bike or pedestrian facilities across the highway 10 Loop," said Mayor Kelly Girtz. "Easy access to groceries and pharmacies, along with state resources such as the Georgia Department of Labor office, will be available to these residents once this project is complete."

The grant comes from the federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program to help communities move forward on projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit, rails, ports, and intermodal transportation and make transportation systems safer, more accessible, more affordable, and more sustainable. Athens-Clarke County is one of only two entities in Georgia to receive funding in 2022.

The 2022 RAISE grants were awarded to 166 projects around the county for a total of more than $2.2 billion of infrastructure investments. The largest grant award was $25 million. Athens-Clarke County received $24.97 million for its project.

"This grant is transformational for the North Avenue corridor," said Manager Blaine Williams. "Transportation and Public Works Department staff are to be commended for their continued dedication in pursuing funding for this project through various programs since 2019. Although it was not previously funded, staff and the Mayor and Commission continued to advocate for the project and submit it for other funding opportunities. This award, one of the largest grants that Athens-Clarke County has received, is due in no small part to the efforts and relationships of the people that make up this local government."

The Reimagine North Avenue project will include upgrading bus stops along the corridor to accommodate sidewalks and transit stops, upgrading traffic signals, the installation of lighting and wayfinding, road resurfacing, drainage improvements, and the construction of a shared multi-use path to provide a separated pedestrian and bicycle route in this area.

The project will also include the reconstruction of the North Avenue bridge over the North Oconee River that was originally built in 1974. This bridge will be rebuilt to connect to the Oconee River Greenway trail and to allow for heavier vehicle travel loads. The GDOT project to replace the bridge over SR-10 is planned to incorporate bike and pedestrian facilities. This bridge is identified as a Tier I Bicycle and Tier I Pedestrian Project in the Athens in Motion Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

Under the RAISE Grant program, the federal government contributes up to 80% of project costs for urban area projects and up to 100% for projects in rural communities. Athens-Clarke County fits the criteria for the 100% funded rural community based on population size. The total cost for the Reimagine North Avenue project will include design, construction, and acquisition of right-of-way and easements.

"This historic project will allow us to make significant upgrades to the critical North Avenue corridor, improving residents’ quality of life and road safety," said Transportation and Public Works Director Stephen Bailey. "This grant award is the culmination of multiple years’ worth of collaboration between staff, consultants, elected officials, and community stakeholders. This project will make a huge difference in helping transform this area and our overall transportation network and multimodal opportunities."

The Reimagine North Avenue project is tentatively scheduled to begin construction by 2027 after design, environmental review, public input, bidding, and right-of-way acquisition stages are complete. The project will eventually provide area residents with improved access to multimodal transportation options along North Avenue and provide safe connections to employment, education, healthcare, public transit, essential services, and recreational areas.

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