A compromise, funded mostly by federal dollars, would cut busy Laney Walker Boulevard down from four lanes to two and add a median. (April 18, 2011 / WRDW-TV)
Thursday, April 12, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Georgia Health Sciences University will begin construction later this year on a project that will enhance the section of Laney Walker Boulevard that runs through campus.
The Laney Walker improvement project is primarily funded by a grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation with additional funds from the university. The current design concept is intended to make the roadway safer for the estimated 8,500 pedestrians who cross it daily and beautify the current streetscape. The GDOT Transportation Enhancement grant began conceptually in 2006, was submitted in 2009 and awarded to GHSU in September 2010.
“Safety is a top priority,” said GHSU President Ricardo Azziz. “Foot traffic on Laney Walker is only increasing with the recent opening of the new College of Dental Medicine, an impending Education Commons building adjacent to that, and more nursing students on campus in light of the ASU/GHSU consolidation. This project will not only make it safer for the thousands of faculty, staff and students who cross one of our busiest thoroughfares, but also will make our campus more attractive.”
In March 2011, the GHSU Student Government Association sent Dr. Azziz a letter highlighting students’ safety concerns about the roadway. More than 200 students signed an endorsement of the Laney-Walker Pedestrian Mall project, which would have called for the closure of the road within the campus to create a pedestrian mall. However, many residents and business owners in the Laney Walker neighborhood had concerns regarding the road closure.
“We continued to seek input from the community,” Azziz said. “And we listened. And it became clear that there were still lots of concerns regarding road closure. So we made a decision to go with the original road enhancement plan approved by GDOT.”
The project will create two lanes of traffic, rather than the current four; eliminate curbside parking between 15th Street and R.A. Dent Boulevard; add bicycle lanes on either side of the road; incorporate slightly elevated crosswalks that are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards; and add more trees, grassy areas and plant beds.
Construction is expected to begin this winter and conclude by summer 2013.