Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

State plans to make one of Macon’s deadliest roads safer for pedestrians

Grant Blankenship | Georgia Public Broadcasting
A man crosses Spring Street in Macon between lights at Riverside Drive and Interstate 16 in 2020.

A series of small concrete islands is planned to increase pedestrian safety along one of the deadliest highways for foot traffic in Bibb County.

Five “medianettes” are slated for Gray Highway, a busy state and federal thoroughfare where eight people on foot have been hit by cars and killed over the past three years.

The medianettes – concrete islands that are six inches tall, eight feet wide and vary in length – are meant to discourage speeding and “create a safer environment for pedestrians,” according to plans obtained through an open records request to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The medianettes are planned between Interstate 16 and Shurling Drive along a 2.5 mile stretch of Gray Highway at Center/Williams Street East, north and south of Lexington Street, north of Hall Street and south of Clinton Road.

The road work has yet to be put out for bid but is estimated to cost $200,000 and set to begin sometime next year, according to GDOT’s website.

“This project came out of numerous discussions with Macon-Bibb regarding pedestrian safety and their concerns with pedestrian safety and speeding on SR 11/Gray Hwy,” GDOT Spokesperson Gina Snider said in an email to The Macon Newsroom. “We proposed the medianette locations to Macon-Bibb to minimize impacts to property accesses, and Macon-Bibb has concurred with these.”

Fix for deadly highway ‘cannot wait any longer’

Traffic is fast and heavy on the six-lane highway dotted with multi-family housing developments, retail stores, gas stations and fast food joints. Many low-income folks who live in the area do not own a vehicle.

The worn dirt paths pedestrians take, called “desire lines,” can be seen through the overgrown grass on the shoulders of the road, particularly on the stretch between Shurling Drive and the Jones County line.

That part of Gray Highway was the subject of a county and state Road Safety Audit in 2016. Few or none of the recommendations to improve safety were implemented as a result of the audit.

Pedestrian safety improvements along Gray Highway currently ranks no. 23 on a list of priorities of the Macon Area Transportation Study, a group that serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Middle Georgia counties.

A couple months ago, the county submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for a $4 million grant to “completely retrofit” Gray Highway by adding sidewalks, pedestrian refuges, bike lanes, improved lighting and marked crosswalks.

“The Gray Highway project cannot wait any longer as pedestrians continue to die,” according to the county’s application for the Safe Streets and Roads for All federal grant.

In June, Macon’s congressional delegation penned letters of support for the county’s application to U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock encouraged “fair and full consideration” of the application from Macon-Bibb County, a place where the rate of pedestrian fatalities, 11.1 fatalities per 100,000 residents, “is nearly five times the national average.”

In its application, the county described the highway as “inordinately dangerous” to traverse on foot or bicycle as the infrastructure “encourages unsafe personal behaviors” such as jaywalking.

“No sane person today would even think about traveling along Gray Highway via bike,” the county said in its application.

The safety improvement project would be completed within five years should the county get the grant, according to the application. The county would match the $4 million federal grant with $1 million in local tax dollars.

The U.S. DOT plans to announce grant awardees in December, according to its website.

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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