The next phase of work on the East Clayton Street improvements project will begin the week of Sept. 14 to prepare for the installation of new electrical conduit in the corridor. This conduit will be used for street lighting, downtown cameras, traffic and pedestrian signals, and other electrical needs. In order to prepare for the conduit installation and the upcoming streetscape work along the length of the entire corridor, the remaining trees in the area of East Clayton Street between North Thomas and North Lumpkin streets will be removed in the coming weeks. Once the streetscape work is completed, more trees will be replanted in the corridor than what is in the area currently. Tree replacement has been a part of the project since the beginning. Many of the trees planted in the corridor now were not designed for an urban environment and were not suited for confined spaces. The planters that encase them and the soil used is not as well-designed for this kind of environment as are current planters and soil. New trees better suited to an urban environment will be planted in spaces that are better designed to handle their root systems. These new trees should last for decades, if not longer, without causing the problems of these older ones. Many of the current trees are also nearing the end of their life cycle and are not only in decline, but have grown throughout the downtown infrastructure, causing serious issues with sidewalks, utilities, streets, and even buildings. Some trees have already been removed during the project due to safety concerns or as work impacted them. The extensive work involved with replacing and improving the underground infrastructure and streetscape that is 100 years old in places is not possible without seriously damaging or killing the existing trees and requires tree removal. A similar project removed and replaced the trees on Broad Street and West Clayton Street in the early 2000s, although the streetscape component will be different from those areas. Initially, the trees will be removed as close as possible to ground level. As work progresses, final removal will involve carefully removing the stumps and underground roots that typically have intertwined with other underground utilities. This process requires a surgical process to avoid damaging existing utilities that potentially impact services to the area. “Between our commercial composting facility, vibrant artisan community, mulch providers, and firewood consumers, it is very rare for wood from Athens-Clarke County to not find a second life,” says Central Services Director and former Sustainability Officer Andrew Saunders. Because of the unique nature of the Clayton Street trees due to their history, species, and growth patterns, Central Services is working with the Leisure Services Arts Division to divert some of these trees to local artists. Completing the tree removal and installation of electrical conduit along the entire project length at once will allow the upcoming streetscape portion of the work to focus on smaller construction areas instead of working in the whole corridor at the same time. Tree removal and conduit installation are planned for completion by the end of 2020. Work during the holiday season in November and December is currently planned for side streets and areas with fewer retail locations in order to have less impact on retail businesses on East Clayton Street. The streetscape portion of the work is scheduled to begin in January 2021 and will take place on smaller sections of the corridor at a time. More details and timeframes will be available this fall related to the streetscape segments. In May 2020, the Transportation and Public Works Department’s Streets and Drainage Division completed the stormwater infrastructure phase of the project. Since that time, private utility companies such as Atlanta Gas Light and Georgia Power have relocated and improved their systems in the area. Some of Atlanta Gas Light’s work will continue over the next few weeks. East Clayton Street was also restriped this summer from its former three lane alignment to the new two lane alignment to match the rest of the corridor. A final paving and re-striping will take place at the end of the project. A private contractor, Astra Construction, is managing the current and upcoming streetscape phases of the project. Once completed, the full East Clayton Street Improvements project will enhance East Clayton Street between North Lumpkin Street and North Thomas Street, as well as North Jackson Street between East Broad Street and East Washington Street. The improvements will include better storm water management and standing water removal, wider sidewalks with fewer pedestrian conflicts, new streetlights, new traffic signals on fewer poles, public art, wider travel lanes for vehicles, changes to metered spaces’ angles to improve safety when reversing out, larger areas for pedestrians to wait for crossing streets, and more trees and landscaping areas. The Mayor and Commission approved the streetscape design and the public art component in 2019. The full project is expected to be completed in early 2022. For more information about the East Clayton Street Improvements Project, visit www.accgov.com/clayton.
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