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Broad Street Reimagined

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Just imagine Broad Street transformed from its current state into a muiti-modal corridor with specific areas dedicated for cars, trucks and buses, parking, separated bike lanes and pedestrian paths, all handicapped accessible.

Imagine the James Brown Linear Park with Brown’s statue raised above street level on a concrete pedestal with a fountain and pedestrian terrace below. Imagine fountains level with the terrace and water coming from beneath the surface.

“The idea is to stand in the circle in the middle of the fountain area, remain dry and get the full effect of the water feature and the James Brown statue that’s up on the pedestal.”

That’s how Augusta’s Traffic Engineer John Ussery described one part of Broad Street of the future to city commissioners Tuesday during a presentation of the Broad Street Concept, complete with project drawings.

James Brown Linear Park. Submitted photo

Engineering designs for the transformation of the Broad Street corridor from Milledge Road to East Boundary will be complete, and the TIA-funded projects let by the end of the year, Ussery said.

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The Broad Street concept is one unified project with three distinct parts.

_ The first part is between Washington Road, Calhoun Expressway and 15th Street, which is mostly residential with some neighborhood businesses, churches and the Kroc Center complex.

_ The second part is between 15th Street and Fourth Street, which is predominantly businesses in a business area which people consider the downtown portion. constitutes the Old Towne portion.

_ The third part is between Fourth Street and East Boundary, which is residential and also constitutes Old Towne.

“Each different part of Broad Street has unique uses and traffic patterns, and the concept and design will vary depending on those factors, but tied together for one unified, cohesive project,” Ussery said.

“Broad Street will transform from its current state into a multi-modal corridor and will dedicate to specific areas for passenger vehicles and parking, separated bike lanes and pedestrian paths with all handicap facilities included.

“The center of Broad Street will be improved to make it more inviting and accessible. The area near the James Brown statue will be enhanced to better honor the legacy of this Augusta icon, Ussery said.”

The portion between 15th Street and 13th Street will have a protected bike lane, parallel parking, four turn lanes, a landscaped median, ADA and pedestrian facilities will be improved and updated.

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Broad Street is currently vehicle-centric, but that will change because the redesign includes all modes of transportation, including golf carts, scooters, bicycles, pedestrians and wheelchairs, Ussery said.

Artist renderings of Broad Street with bicycle lanes. Submitted photo

Broad Street will coordinate well with other projects in the area, such as improvements to the 13th Street bridge, a Georgia DOT project. The Riverwalk path beneath the bridge that connects to the Augusta Canal trails on the other side of the bridge will connect to the extended network of trails and paths that go all the way through Richmond and Columbia counties, Ussery said.

The 13th Street bridge will also have a dedicated bike path that will connect to the North Augusta Greenway on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River.

The Fifth Street bridge, currently under construction, will connect to Broad Street and provide multi-modal improvements and more options for the traveling public in downtown Augusta, Ussery said.

Improvements at the James Brown Linear Park include the statue being raised above the street level on a concrete pedestal with a fountain and pedestrian terrace below.

The park will also have a covered shade area with seating.

“The ultimate goal for all of the projects is to improve the function and esthetic appearance of the downtown area,” Ussery said. “All separate projects are designed with connection in mind. Our objective is to improve the overall multi-faceted quality of life in historic downtown Augusta and draw more of our residents and visitors to this area of our city.”

Commissioner Sean Frantom asked for a timeline on the project, and Engineering Director Hameed Malik said the design work is 60 percent complete and should be finished by June or July. The project should be let and awarded by the commission by December, with work beginning after the Masters Golf Tournament in 2023.

Frantom also asked whether deliveries would be possible on Broad Street during construction.

“Yes,” Malik said. “We always maintain access. That’s why we’re doing this project in a different way. We’re bringing the contractor into the design process now, so the designer and the contractor will work together to come up with the staging, constructability and access.”

Frantom also asked whether the commission can make any changes to the plan or whether they were stuck with what they have.

“Right now, given the schedule that we have, we can tweak some minor changes but changing the design would be impossible because of the schedule we have. We’re already behind and we’re pushing our consultants.”

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Frantom said his concern was the landscape and having so many trees when the city already has a tough time maintaining trees.

He added, “I understand the need to have some of them, but this is way too many trees, and that was a common theme in all the presentations, and then it seems like we never, as a body … I don’t think it ever came back to us after the presentation, it was more like, ‘This is what we’re going to have to live with.’”

Frantom also said they’d talked in the past about making Ellis Street one-way.

“I think if we did that, number one, you could open up lighting,” Frantom said. “Number two, you could open up deliveries because we’re going to have this nice road and to have 18-wheelers on this with all the things we’re putting in just doesn’t make sense when we can make deliveries on Ellis Street mandatory.”

Ussery said they had looked at it, and he thought it was a good idea.

Commissioner Brandon Garrett said he gets asked every week what the 5th Street Bridge is connecting to on the North Augusta side of the river.

“Is it just going to stop there?” he asked.

Malik said the North Augusta’s trail master plan does show connectivity, but he didn’t know when that would happen.

“I’m just trying to understand the point behind it,” Garrett said. “It just seems it’s a bridge to nowhere.”

“I’m not real clear about what’s going to happen on the South Carolina side, but the bridge on our side of the river is a very important piece of our overall plan to make downtown more accessible to everyone, not just people in passenger cars or vehicles,” Ussery said. “So, the 5th Street bridge will connect to 5th Street which will have a bike lane on it which will connect to Telfair Street which has a bike lane on it which will connect with Broad Street which has a bike lane on it,” Ussery said. “We’re going to install bike lanes on 12 Street. One of the worst things you can do to a bike lane is have it go nowhere.”

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The Broad Street renovation is one of eight Transportation Investment Act projects totaling $84 million, designed to upgrade downtown Augusta’s main streets.

The $25 million Broad Street concept was designed by Cooper Carry, an Atlanta landscape architectural firm that specializes in historic rehabilitation, urban design and planning. It was completed and approved by the Augusta Commission in 2016

In 2012, voters in the 13-county region approved the first TIA, a one percent sales tax to run for 10 years. All projects in the third and final band must be designed and let by Dec. 31, according to Georgia Department of Transportation rules.

Sylvia Cooper is a columnist with The Augusta Press. Reach her at [email protected]  

10 COMMENTS

  1. ““The ultimate goal for all of the projects is to improve the function and esthetic appearance of the downtown area,” ”

    If the city converts all the free parking currently on broad to “multi-modal”, no one’s going to notice. Stop paying the consultants for bad ideas.

  2. A little background on why the JB statue is not raised: The sculptor saw JB as a man of the people, and as such, created the statue with the intent that it be installed at grade level to allow people to walk up to the statue and take their picture. There were some that saw this as demeaning, so a platform was designed to invoke the image of a stage, which was appropriate considering his legacy. This still allowed for his fans to interact and take photos. The designers may want to take this into consideration. Raising the statue higher may put him of the same physical level as others in downtown, but it then makes him just one more inaccessible dead guy.

  3. Why can’t the commissioners put this much effort and money into providing a fully-staffed sheriff’s department, street lights that work, consistent garbage collection, department operations that comply with federal and state regulations, and a DA staff to prosecute violent criminals and keep them off the streets?

    “Frantom said his concern was the landscape and having so many trees when the city already has a tough time maintaining trees.” Hey Captain Obvious, Augusta cannot maintain anything – Riverwalk, street sweepers, trash trucks, mounted police force and stable, Aquatic Center, buses that look like trolleys, storm water systems, cracked and uneven sidewalks, financial records, city administrators, transparency, integrity, and honesty.

    Leave the James Brown statue where it is. Put up a statue of Justice Clarence Thomas.

  4. Downtown certainly is vehicle centric and needs to remain so. We have a lively and growing entertainment district and these eggheads want to alter that? How stupid.

    We have trees and sidewalks…they need to cleaned up on a regular basis.

    Wanna develop something…Ellis Street is prime.

    Have access issues I agree in making more handicapped parking places.

    Bicycles coexist with pedestrians already on the sidewalks of downtown.

  5. As currently, and have worked in downtown since 1977, with a 5 year interlude in West Augusta , have seen alot, especially the great demise in 1978-79 of the Malls opening, with merchants leaving to move there. Then, with less head-count downtown, existing retail stores(Woolworths, H.L.Green’s, Wilkinson’s Hot Dogs, Revco Drugs…etc) simply closed.
    Several observations:
    Commissioners Frampton and Garrett, are asking practical, common sense questions, but “are they heard?”
    My experience in 40 years is seeing a price-tag of $25,000,000 on these huge plans, with Not one-cent being spent on the actual project.
    Visiting downtown Chattanooga, TN, 20 years ago, with their being similar in size to Augusta and have a River, an abandoned bridge, and had a declined downtown area. HAS ANYONE GONE TO CHATTANOOGA AND CONSULTED THEIR CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & CITY FATHERS? What they did, was to take the downtown, with a condemned bridge, and created a thriving, small-business retail environment.
    I immediately noticed, off-street parking lots; every street was well-lighted; a constant police presence(on foot, quiet, visible); no hobos or street-people allowed(if present, discretely escorted away). Music playing from restaurants, shops, taverns, and theatre. People strolling and crossing the bridge to venues on the other side (which could be what Hamburg/North Augusta needs to get active in, as Garrett questioned).
    Thank you, Sylvia for another great article, pointing to Augusta, “who’s on first, what’s on second, when’s on third… and a $25,000,000 study done in 2016… and this is 2022.
    “Let’s go, Times a-wasting’… Song by Carl Smith and June Carter Cash.

  6. I’m waiting to see what’s planned for the Confederate Memorial Monument.
    Nestled in the trees between 7th and 8th Streets, it’s majestic and plenty historic.
    Leave the trees, clean up the doorways, and sidewalks. Including the panhandlers.
    Downtown is finally recovering, let the business’ manage without the “professional and expensive planners”.

  7. Thank you for your wonderful column
    Some of the replies were spot on,
    however Frampton’s idiotic remarks that we need fewer trees took the cake.

    The other responders that said we should see what Chattanooga, Greenville and I will add Columbus, Ga
    Is very relevant. HOPEFULLY WE WILL GET THIS DONE AND NOT BE ANOTHER COLOSSEUM DEBACLE

  8. It is so sad that so many people have not noticed how they put “shade covers” along this section of Broad street, 8-9th at the James Brown liniar Park dropping the drivable traffic to “ONE LANE” in each direction. JUST HOW STUPID do you have to be to do that to downtown. Your article should have shown all of the renderings for your customers to see this.

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