Tucker works to ease congestion while connecting sidewalks, trails and roads

Tucker City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — Tucker officials are thinking big picture when it comes to connectivity for pedestrians, bikers and even vehicles. The city is prioritizing building sidewalks and trails, and studying how to make roads safer.

The city has spent about $1.7 million dollars on sidewalks, and plans to continue spending while Cooledge Road sidewalk construction is completed. Also in progress are sidewalks for Old Norcross Road, but those are not likely to be built in 2022.

The Old Norcross Road sidewalk project has complex drainage issues to overcome, City Engineer Ken Hildebrandt told Tucker Observer. An engineering plan is complete and most of 13 required easements have been obtained. The main delay is due to utilities.

“Poles adjacent to the travel lane are a big safety concern, and we have been working with AT&T to get these relocated. This is a lengthy process which requires them to design the relocation of their facilities,” said Hildebrandt at a City Council meeting on Aug. 22. “Due to the pole relocations, it is unlikely that the sidewalk construction will begin in 2022.”

Tucker City Council is going to hear from Hildebrandt in September about the North-South Connectivity study. It’s a look at traffic flow, bike access and pedestrian accessibility on streets including Fellowship Road, Montreal Road, Brockett Road, Cooledge Road and Idlewood Road.

“From a traffic standpoint, we have a lot of congestion. We have speeding at times, we have some sight distance issues,” said Hildebrandt. “What you do to one may affect the other, so we want to look at all of them holistically.”

Tucker has planned a network of trails – 32 miles of off-road, side paths and wide sidewalks. When the plan was created several years ago, costs were estimated at $53 million but “construction costs have gone way up since then” according to the city.

Construction of the Tucker trail system started with Segment 1A in April. Now 55% complete, the projected finish is September. Hildebrandt said the city is making good progress. Segment 1A runs from LaVista Road to First Avenue in downtown Tucker. It will be lit by pedestrian street lights.

A side path along Hugh Howell Road, from Smoke Rise Elementary School to Marthasville Court, is 75% complete. It is on track to be complete by the end of September.

Upcoming trail segments will connect downtown Tucker to Northlake Parkway, paid for by a combination of federal and local funding. The entire plan can be found here.

Council members were given time for questions. First was Cara Schroeder, who asked how much money the city needed to complete the Tucker Northlake trail.

“Tucker Northlake trail is a work in progress and we’re still negotiating costs … but in terms of just the engineering design, we’ve got $560,000 of federal money and a $50,000 commitment from the Tucker Northlake CID,” said Hildebrandt. “That sounds like a lot of money and isn’t enough.”

He explained it could cost $2 million for engineering costs only because of bridges, geotechnical work and surveying.

Focusing on Segment 3A, a section of the trail that follows South Fork Peachtree Creek near Cowan Road at Idlewood Road, Councilmember Alexis Weaver asked about how the city plans to work with homeless residents who are using alleys for shelter.

“What’s our typical approach about how we communicate to folks who are using those spaces? I’d like to see us have a plan,” Weaver said.

Mayor Pro Tem Anne Lerner, who was sitting in for Mayor Frank Auman, said the city will “plan how to take care of [the homeless population] and get them the services they need” by working with DeKalb County Police Department and social services.

“We’ve done this before with bridges. We’ve worked with the CID. DeKalb PD has social services workers that will go out and move them, but the trail’s coming through so we’re gonna have to have a plan for that – especially when you’re looking at Cowan Road,” said Lerner.

The meeting concluded with a presentation led by Matthew Lee and board members of Friends of Tucker Path. Lee, who serves as executive director of Tucker Northlake CID, said the group posts progress updates and photos on social media.

“People love images,” said Lee. There’s something about, not just before and after, but the progress in the middle. People feel connected to [the project].”

Lee demonstrated how future trails could affect the city, from pedestrian traffic to commercial centers and attracting residential developers.

“People are hungry for this. They want it. Tucker needs to be an environment that says we want to welcome you. We’ve got a space for you in our plan,” said Lee.

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