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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hwy 9 design guidelines under review.

by Jonathan Copsey / Appen Newspapers

November 19, 2010

Milton - "How do you know you're in Milton?"

That was the question posed to council during last week's work session by John Bratton, of the Highway 9 Design Committee.

At issue is that a driver can be passing through the city and not even know it. If they never stray from Highway 9, Milton looks much like any other town.

To combat this problem, the committee suggested numerous solutions to "brand" the city, making it distinct from its neighbors. This branding would include fencing, specific brick colors for buildings and use of green space to identify Milton as more of a rural, small-town community. However, there is a problem.

"Everything you can do is dependent on the speed limit," said Bratton.

The Georgia Department of Transportation controls Highway 9, and the allowed designs for streetscapes differ from 45mph to 35mph. For instance, at 45 mph, the current set speed for much of the state route, street lamps and trees must be at least 14 feet from the road, which puts sidewalks running right alongside that road. On 35mph streets, the trees can be 7 feet from the road, between it and sidewalks, which is much better for pedestrian traffic.

Also at 35mph, on-street parking and bike lanes can be added.

Robyn MacDonald, of the Milton planning department, added that the city should focus on requiring inter-parcel access between businesses to lessen traffic on the road itself, with parking lots placed behind buildings to hide them from view and give the city a more "small-town" feel.

Many of the proposed designs hinge on lowering the speed limit, which GDOT has historically been unwilling to do. Carter Lucas, director of public works, noted that even with the installation of a new high school in Milton, GDOT has no plans to change the speed limit. However, John Bosman, of Urban Design and a member of the committee, noted that the regional DOT has been more willing to listen to requests from the North Fulton cities in recent years.

Also discussed at the work session:

• Creation of a Milton 2012-2015 Strategic Plan will begin Nov. 17 and continue to April of next year. A committee has been created, composed of community and business leaders.

"We don't want the budget to drive the city's direction," said Alysin Foster. "We want [the master plan] to drive the budget."

Both public and private meetings will be held to formulate the plan.

Discussion of traffic light mast arms resulted in the council desiring more decorative designs than the basic design used at present.

The GDOT standard is a galvanized steel pole with a similar arm extending over the street, holding traffic lights. Lucas, the city's public works director, offered several options to use in the future, including black-painted mast arms, some with decorative elements, such as fluting, lighting or a skirt around the base.

Council chose the basic black design for the future, with the possibility of using decorative designs in high pedestrian areas.

The city plans to install three signals in the near future.

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