Photo by Jason A. Smith
Stockbridge Mayor Pro Tem, Mark Alarcon, said right-of-way issues on Berry Street have prevented city leaders from installing sidewalks in the area. The Stockbridge City Council, recently, approved the construction of the sidewalks.
A lengthy push to increase safety on a stretch of road in Stockbridge appears to be headed for better days.
The Stockbridge City Council recently approved a resolution designating funds for its Berry Street Sidewalk Project. City leaders will hold a town hall meeting, March 31, at Trinity United Methodist Church at 112 Wilson Ave., from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., to discuss the endeavor with local residents.
Councilman Alphonso Thomas is among those who led the charge for the sidewalk project, leading up to Monday’s unanimous vote by the council. He said sidewalks were needed on Berry Street long before he joined the city government in January.
“Citizens have marched up here for 10 years, asking for these sidewalks, and it all fell on deaf ears,” said Thomas. “I’m glad to say, though, that after our meeting [Monday] afternoon, we came to a compromise where the full council is in favor of moving forward to make sure that this project happens. But, for years, it had not.”
Thomas said ongoing construction in Stockbridge, including the temporary closure of Rock Quarry Road, has increased traffic woes on Berry Street.
“All of the traffic is coming to South Berry Street, and it is a very dangerous situation,” the councilman said. “That was one reason I had the mandate to move forward on this project. I ran on this issue when I was campaigning for council, and our citizens have held me up to make sure I push this issue. That’s what I’ve done.”
“I sponsored a resolution for the city to fund this project 100 percent,” Thomas continued. “The contention was that the city had applied for various funds for the project, and they were turned down, and that’s where it stopped. But, we know that the funds are there. The city could fund this project on their own, but there are some unknowns as far as right-of-way, property acquisition and those kinds of things, so the council did not want to go on record to support this project 100 percent until some of the unknowns were known, and I can understand that. But, I do know that the citizens want it.”
Thomas said his original plans for the sidewalk project called for work to be done from Nolan Street to Second Street. A slightly different proposal, he said, was offered by Stockbridge Mayor Pro Tem, Mark Alarcon, to install sidewalks from Nolan Street to Wilson Street.
Alarcon said that, in 2011, a total of $200,000 was set aside in a line item on the city's budget, for the sidewalk project. The exact amount needed to complete the project, is not yet known, he said.
“Last month, we unanimously passed a resolution to allow for the [request for proposal] process to start,” said Alarcon. “Until the engineering and surveying is done, the city won’t know what the overall cost of the project is, and what the contribution will be that is needed to get this done.”
Alarcon said city leaders are in agreement that sidewalks are needed along Berry Street, but wrestled with issues related to funding for the project. He said there are unresolved issues regarding right-of-way for a Norfolk Southern railroad which runs adjacent to Berry Street.
The dilemma, Alarcon said, was compounded by right-of-way standards, which are different for Norfolk Southern than for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).
“From Wilson Street to Second Street, we are very confident that we needed to do an 80-20 [breakdown of] matching funds,” said Alarcon. “From Nolan to Wilson, that is the only stretch that we are pretty confident that the right of way is going to impede on the Norfolk Southern right-of-way ... There is a potential that nobody is going to help us with funding for that. So it makes more sense to me to pay 100 percent of half of the project, than to incur 100 percent for the whole project.
“To protect the city, and give us more lateral movement, we want to separate the scope from Nolan to Wilson as Phase 1, and from Wilson to Second Street will be Phase 2, because we know that once we get beyond Wilson, we don’t have to worry about Norfolk Southern anymore,” Alarcon added. “So, we know GDOT will work with us to work on that corridor, at an 80-20 split.”
A woman who lives on Berry Street, but did not want to be identified, said she has seen a need for improvements in the area since moving there recently.
“They need sidewalks in this area really bad,” the woman said, Tuesday afternoon.
She added that construction work for a bridge on Rock Quarry Road has contributed to traffic problems in Stockbridge.
“When they finish the bridge, they have to take care of this traffic right here,” the woman said. “This traffic is really heavy.”
Alarcon added that he expects engineering and survey reports for the sidewalk project to be ready for review, in time for the council’s work session in May.