You may have noticed the buzz about the changes coming to Garland Avenue. This discussion has been ongoing for years, and it is finally nearing an end, but at least one thing is still undecided.
What we know
At this point, we know the design is going to have sidewalks and bike lanes. Hooray!
We know that some of the busier intersections need to be improved. At first, this means adding left-turn lanes (also called “stacking” lanes) and probably traffic signals.
We also know from traffic models that if things continue like they have been, Garland will eventually need four lanes.
That’s what we know: two lanes for bicycles, stacking lanes and traffic signals, curbs, sidewalks, and eventually four travel lanes.
And what we don’t know
Here is what we don’t know: Will there be a turn lane, or a median, or traffic islands? When the Street Committee finally settled on a design this year, it included a median. I’m a member of the Street Committee, and we were clear: we want an iconic boulevard for our community. The full City Council agreed with us.
But, since Garland doubles as State Highway 112, our plans have to be approved by the Highway Department (AHTD).
AHTD responds “… rejected …”
Unfortunately, the Highway Department rejected the idea. We weren’t surprised. Instead, they proposed four travel lanes and a continuous turn lane, essentially a five lane configuration just like you see out on West Wedington or South Crossover.
That particular five-lane configuration is something none of us want for Garland. There are all sorts of problems with it, but it’s the preferred design by AHTD because of its familiarity and low-cost.
As a compromise, the City administration is proposing “refuge islands,” which are basically short sections of medians with trees that would be included in the design AHTD submitted. The islands aren’t what we want, but they may be the best we can get from AHTD.
It’s also entirely possible they will reject the islands just as they did our original design. This isn’t the first time AHTD and the City has disagreed about how a new or improved street should look. Sometimes AHTD gets their way, and sometimes Fayetteville gets theirs.
At least, that’s how it seems on the surface, but our relationship with them isn’t so black and white.
How you can help
In the past, Fayetteville has appeared schizophrenic to AHTD. For years, the City and the citizens couldn’t reach agreements about the designs for South Crossover and West Wedington, which double as state highways just like Garland does. Eventually, AHTD and the City Administration got fed up with debate and decided to just get on with it, and that’s why those streets aren’t boulevards and don’t have bike lanes.
In other cases, like the changes being made to downtown College Ave and North Crossover (neither of which are completed), the City and the citizens did reach an agreement, and we are getting beautiful streets with boulevard features.
History teaches us this lesson: when the City and the citizens are unified, AHTD listens to our community. When we can reach an agreement, they know they have the political cover to do something out-of-the-ordinary, like a boulevard where they would normally pave over our yards and greenspace for five ugly and unsafe lanes.
For Garland’s future, this is the heart of the matter: will the citizens ask AHTD to give them a median? The City Administration wants one but doesn’t think it has widespread citizen support. Both of the Ward 2 Aldermen want medians (Kyle Cook made the original proposal and I’m the other Alderman for Ward 2), and the Street Committee voted to adopt it unanimously.
City Hall has reached a consensus.
But it’s only the first step, because AHTD wants to negotiate and we need you to help us get what is best for Fayetteville.
It’s urgent, because we can’t start other street projects until we start this one. It’s been more than two years, and it’s time to get started on Garland.
We’re hosting a meeting to explain how
When: July 16, 6:30pm
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, at Sycamore and Garland
The City will present these topics for discussion:
- proposed changes and street design
- a history of Garland, relevant proposals, and the street bond issue
- how we can be strategic with the Highway Department
- why we need to get started soon
For more information, please contact Alderman Matthew Petty.