Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin announced during his first State of the City speech to the Kiwanis Club of Marietta February 18 that the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) has awarded Marietta $3 million to fund streetscape and traffic improvements on Franklin Road, which will beautify one of the major corridors coming into Marietta, improve traffic flow, help reduce accidents and improve pedestrian safety. The ARC received more than 40 grant applications, and Marietta received the second-highest grant award out of 17 given.
The improvements are phase two of a project on the middle section of Franklin Road, and when complete upgrades will include landscaped medians, traffic lights, aligning entryways to apartment complexes and shopping centers, landscaping, sidewalks on both sides of the road, and decorative lighting.
The improvements will eliminate motorists going into the middle lane trying to turn and include designated areas where pedestrians should cross the road, city manager Bill Bruton said. “A lot of people are hit in the area, which isn’t good,” he said. “The improvements will be a lot more laid out so people will know where they can cross the street and where they should turn.”
The streetscape enhancements would encourage redevelopment in the area and support business owners and residents who want to go in and put more money into their properties, Bruton said. “They would see the city doing the same.”
The project is funded by a grant awarded through the livable centers initiative (LCI) program, which the ARC established in 2000 to encourage quality design in downtown areas or urban centers, Bruton said. “A lot of the grant money the ARC is able to give communities for projects comes from the federal government to state government.”
In order to participate and have access to the grant money, the city had to be an LCI community and had to go through a competitive process, Bruton said. “Marietta was selected by selected by the ARC and had to do a planning study of the city, which shows how we can improve the city through quality design and traffic enhancements.”
In 2000, Marietta was one of the first 10 communities selected by the ARC to participate in the first round of the program, Bruton said. “The city’s first planning study was called Envision Marietta and involved people from all over the community, trying to figure out what the downtown core should be like and included master plans for the downtown area and what we would do,” he said. “A lot of what we’re doing on Roswell Street and some of what is going forward on Powder Springs Street came from that plan, including zoning changes that we’ve done.”
The ARC approved the plan, which allowed the city to apply for the grant money. “Over a two-year period, we were able to receive $3 million for improvements on Roswell Street,” Bruton said.
“While we were finishing up with that project, as far as planning and applying for the grant, we looked at the Franklin Road/Delk Road area and created a Franklin Road/Delk corridor master plan, which was also approved by the ARC,” Bruton said. “This plan laid out how the Franklin Road/Delk Road area would function and look and was an effort to spur redevelopment in that area of town.” The ARC approved the plan, which allowed the city to be able to apply for funding for the area, he said.
The city didn’t create an LCI plan for Powder Springs Street, Bruton said. “We actually went in and did our own Powder Springs Street master plan with the Marietta Housing Authority, and we both paid for half of the project,” he said. “The ARC approved the plan just this year to have it included as an LCI-eligible project.”
Phase one of the Franklin Road project, which is on the north and south ends of Franklin Road, is funded by the 2005 special purpose local option sales tax voters approved for transportation improvements.
The project is included in the new SPLOST list City Council is currently considering, which should free up some anticipated funds for other projects if that SPLOST goes forward,” Bruton said. “Senior urban planner Kyethea Kirk and city engineer Jim Wilgus did a great job preparing the application.”
“The earliest construction would start on the project would be in late 2012, since the city has just received the funding,” Wilgus said. “The actual start date depends on several issues, which haven’t been addressed yet.”
An efficient transportation system, which places a high premium on the quality of life of Marietta’s citizens; creating landscaped boulevards and gateways; encouraging redevelopment with a mixture of uses, while strengthening viable neighborhoods and commercial areas; continuing quality zoning and development that will benefit generations to come; and working with the Marietta Housing Authority, Cobb Housing Inc. and other agencies to redevelop and revitalize the Franklin Road, Roswell Street, Allgood and Powder Springs Road corridors as well as other areas of Marietta are goals City Council established as part of its vision statement.