COVINGTON - In response to an article in the Sept. 8 edition of the Citizen concerning complaints by businesses and Covington City Council members about the Pace Street LCI project, a representative of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) emailed the Citizen some “clarifications.”
Kyle Collins, the District Communications Specialist for the East Central Georgia Office of GDOT in Tennille, corresponded with the Citizen by email on Sept. 12, stating that “This should shed light on GDOT’s activities and involvement in this locally managed job.”
The Pace Street LCI project includes new concrete sidewalks constructed for 0.4 miles along both sides of Pace Street. After reducing the number of lanes from four to three, 5-foot-wide dedicated bicycle lanes will be introduced and the roadway milled, resurfaced and re-striped. Other enhancements include raised curbs, landscaped center medians in two locations for pedestrian crossings and refuges, pedestrian scale lighting and other street furnishings, ADA-accessible curb ramps, street trees and shrub plantings.
Federal grants through GDOT will cover $1.9 million, which left $510,000 for the city to fund. The work started on March 25 with a timeline for completion of 18 months.
During their Sept. 3 meeting, the council approved a change order of $39,850.50 to modify concrete driveways that had been raised on Pace Street as part of the project. The driveways are being ripped out and will be lowered.
But the height of the road, sidewalks and driveways have sparked complaints from business owners in the area and resulted in Council member Susie Keck calling the work a “big boo-boo” at a Sept. 3 council meeting.
City Engineer Tres Thomas said the issue with the height of the driveways came about due to the road being raised. He said when GDOT reviewed the design plans, they requested a 2% increase in the cross slope to provide better drainage.
But according to Collins, the “design was never to correct a drainage issue as there has not been one in the past.” Collins said the cross slope of the road needed meet the 2% minimum required by both state and federal guidelines.
“Two percent roadway cross slope is needed to facilitate storm water runoff so that standing water does not accumulate on the roadway but will naturally shed from the center of the roadway to the curb and gutter,” wrote Collins.”
He went to note that Covington has a Local Administered Project (LAP) certification allowing them to manage core activities for federal-aid funded projects such as the Pace Street LCI, and that GDOT stewardship includes the responsibility to assure local projects meet or exceed all applicable federal and state laws, standards and requirements.
Collin said GDOT did receive a complaint from a business owner about the height of the driveways and stepped in to review the play layout and provide a revised plan.
“GDOT is not mandated to perform this action,” wrote Collins, “but wants to maintain collaboration with the LAP to ensure it meets standards.”
In response to a comment from Michael Whatley in which he said he hoped the city and GDOT would take the concerns seriously, Collins wrote that GDOT staff met with the locals, consultant design team and property owners at Morgan Plaza on Aug/ 7 to discuss the driveway concerns.
“After that meeting, District GDOT staff reviewed the current plans and, taking the property owner complaints and concerns into consideration, proposed revisions,” wrote Collins. “Each driveway was extensively reviewed and recommendations were made as needed.
“The current design would work and meets standards but was not acceptable to the property owners,” he continued. “No additional costs were associated with that. This was strictly a customer service driven response to the complaints received. GDOT has been in contact with property owners and the city to minimize additional costs and formulate a plan going forward to complete the project according to schedule.
Referencing Keck’s “big boo-boo” comment in which she said the project needed to be done right, Collins wrote, “The original driveway layouts met all current design standards. The change order in the amount of $40,000 is being done to try and resolve the property owners’ complaints.”