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GHSU to narrow Laney-Walker Boulevard through campus

Thursday, April 12, 2012 2:38 PM
Last updated Friday, April 13, 2012 2:22 AM
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Georgia Health Sciences University plans to narrow the section of Laney-Walker Boulevard that runs through its campus from four lanes to two in a “compromise” between improving safety and maintaining access, GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said Thursday.

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Georgia Health Sciences University plans to narrow the section of Laney-Walker Boulevard that runs through its campus.  ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
Georgia Health Sciences University plans to narrow the section of Laney-Walker Boulevard that runs through its campus.

That effort actually began long before Azziz’s arrival. Then-Medical College of Georgia President Daniel W. Rahn, who often heard the squeal of brakes from near misses as well as a number of accidents from his office on Laney-Walker Boulevard, petitioned the Georgia Department of Transportation in 2008 to narrow the road and beautify it, and raise the crosswalks. That project was approved in 2009, Azziz said.

When Azziz became president the following year, he was petitioned by the students to make crossing Laney-Walker Boulevard safer. An Augusta Chronicle analysis last year of traffic data since 1995 turned up eight pedestrians struck by vehicles in the two-block section of Laney-Walker Boulevard between R.A. Dent Boulevard and 15th Street.

The university said 8,500 pedestrians cross the street in that two-block section every day, and it will only increase in the future. The new College of Dental Medicine building, for instance, is across Laney-Walker Boulevard from the old building it still uses for classes, forcing students to cross that section. A new Education Commons building that will service dental students as well as Medical College of Georgia students is also set to go next to the new building and force more crossings. Azziz has also expressed a need for a more “unified” campus feel.

The school first broached the plan in December 2010 when it asked the Augusta Commission to close that section in favor of a pedestrian mall that would also honor the Rev. C.T. Walker and Lucy Craft Laney.

“That prompted a significant outcry from the community and really at that point we felt that, after talking to many, many leaders in the community, that really it was best at this point not to proceed with road closure and to proceed with the original plan called for in the GDOT grant,” Azziz said. “It is a compromise and we recognize it.”

Azziz said he has talked to many community leaders about the narrowing idea and said they appreciate the compromise.

“They have been supportive of maintaining the road access open while enhancing safety,” he said. “They are as concerned as I am about student safety but they are also concerned about access. And this project, the way it is now being proposed, really is able to maintain both.”

Because it is a state-approved project and does not involve city funds, Azziz said he does not believe it needs to be approved by the commission. The university plans to begin construction in mid-December and complete it by June 2013.

Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said he has not seen a study on the impact of the plans but it should be an improvement over current conditions.

“Anything to make it safer around there is a win-win for the community, in my opinion,” he said.

Former Laney-Walker Neighborhood Association President Stanley Hawes, who was among the first to speak out against closing the section of road, said the impact of the plan remains to be seen.

“If you reduce one lane, can it really handle the traffic flow?” he said. “People still rely on that to go that way.”

District 1 Commissioner Matt Aitken, who has yet to announce whether he’ll run again for the post, said after previous debate over closing the road the community can “go along” with the traffic-calming alternative.

“When you look at what’s going on with the university right now — with the merger, with the governor wanting to make it one of the top research universities in the nation — we’re looking for it to impact this city for years to come,” he said.

The school will still do something to honor Walker and Laney near the road, but Azziz said it will not be part of the road project.

“I think it is important to honor our community leaders in that regard,” he said. “We have deliberately not tied it to this project because we feel that would be disingenuous.”

Staff Writer Susan McCord contributed to this article.

GOT A NAME?

Frog Hollow and James Brown are out, but if you have a suggestion for a name for the newly merged Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities, the schools are willing to listen.

GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, who will lead the newly merged school, sent an e-mail Thursday saying that the name of the new university has generated far more comment and interest than almost any other aspect of the consolidation. As he told The Augusta Chronicle in an interview earlier this year, he again said his preference would be that it be no more than three words, that it would include “university” but not “health” or “medicine.” Responding to suggestions readers have sent to The Chronicle, Azziz said it would not be “Froghollah University,” “The Cool School,” or “the James Brown Downtown College of Good Knowledge.”

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has asked for three suggestions by July 1. A small committee from both schools is working on the name. You can submit a new name to them through asughsu.org/name.

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iLove
626
Points
iLove 04/12/12 - 03:24 pm
1
3
The Golden Rule: He who has
Unpublished

The Golden Rule: He who has the gold ($) makes the rules.

Augusta National and MCG=the rulers of Augusta, Ga.

Little Lamb
45908
Points
Little Lamb 04/12/12 - 03:26 pm
8
3
I always thought having the

I always thought having the four-lane thoroughfare through the campus was a tool to weed out students. If they're not intelligent enough to look both ways, they're not intelligent enough to treat your illness.

Little Lamb
45908
Points
Little Lamb 04/12/12 - 03:30 pm
0
3
Actually, Merged University

Actually, Merged University has a pretty good ring to it. The acronym would be MU.

countyman
20120
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countyman 04/12/12 - 03:38 pm
3
2
Dr. Azziz came to Augusta

Dr. Azziz came to Augusta with a vision and didn't look back in the mirror.. The Walmart deal, GGHF property, Laney Walker Boulevard, MCG to GHSU, etc.. They might as well start building office space, dorms, etc in Laney Walker and around Sunset(please demolished Cherry Tree)..

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 04/12/12 - 03:39 pm
1
0
The University of Augusta

The University of Augusta

raul
4861
Points
raul 04/12/12 - 04:01 pm
3
0
@countyman. (please demolish

@countyman. (please demolish Cherry Tree). Where would they go? More Section 8 and crime spread throughout the community? That hasn't worked very well with the other government housing that was demolished.

How about University of Georgia@ Augusta?

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 04/12/12 - 04:08 pm
0
3
We need to demolish every

We need to demolish every single housing project in Augusta... What neighborhoods dramatically changed after Gilbert Manor or Under Woods were demolished? This means the neighborhood was solid middle class up until 2-3 years ago... Please don't bring up neighborhoods that became lower middle class a long time ago.

averagejoe
0
Points
averagejoe 04/12/12 - 04:08 pm
1
0
State University of Georgia

State University of Georgia at Augusta - SUGA

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 04/12/12 - 04:27 pm
3
0
Countyman answer to your

Countyman answer to your question South Augusta has changed. You now see more title pawns, rent-a-wheel, check cashing and Chinese buffets. Public housing should've never existed for as long as it has. Neighborhoods like farington, woodlake, pepperidge, and even the apartment complexes on Washington rd have seen the effects. Augusta Arts and Sciences University.

kennybowl
0
Points
kennybowl 04/12/12 - 04:27 pm
4
1
How does Dr. Azziz have the

How does Dr. Azziz have the authority to narrow a county road? Does he not know that main roads go through major colleges and universities all across the United States?

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 04/12/12 - 04:30 pm
0
0
We need to have multiple low
Unpublished

We need to have multiple low income section 8 high rises built in Olde Towne....Think Richmond Summit....one high rise on every block in Olde Towne....

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 04/12/12 - 04:52 pm
1
1
Double Standard... The number

Double Standard... The number of pawns shops and checking cashing places didn't dramatically increase in South Augusta after 2009... The Southgate shopping center, Regency Mall, etc all had seen their better days years before 2009... I can bring up the middle class and upper middle class homes that were built in South Augusta after 2009. The Lakes at Spirit Creek is one of the new residential subdivisions starting in the 200's.. I wouldn't include Farington with Woodlake or Pepperidge, but again both Woodlake and Pepperidge weren't solid middle class in 2009 and suddenly became lower middle class in 2010... The apartment complex on Washington rd next to the old Food Lion shopping center already was just 'okay' before 2009.. The nice residential on Washington rd off Alexander, Berckman, Bertram, etc is still the same.. The apartments on Alexander rd rent for $1000 for a one bedroom. Think about all the traffic on Washington rd, and violent crime is still very rare..

Sweet son
10397
Points
Sweet son 04/12/12 - 04:49 pm
0
0
What about the original

What about the original namesake of the street??? Button Gwinett, I'm sure was not even considered when thinking about the mall. I am sure that Azziz and others are trying to keep a certain demographic happy with all of their plans. How about George Walton? I know he has a long street but he could be included in the mall honorees so that it would be balanced. Laney-Walker/Gwinett-Walton Azziz University Mall!

jules3854
1
Points
jules3854 04/12/12 - 04:56 pm
8
0
Is it really wise to spend

Is it really wise to spend that kind of money on a project which isn't at all necessary and in reality could create an even larger traffic problem?MCG...GHSU has hundreds of very qualified employees who have not received an increase in pay in four years and the talk is that they won't for at least another 2 years. Please take a minute out of your busy schedule and explain to your hourly employees how this changing of a road system becomes more important to the school than taking care of your many loyal employees. Thank you.

Sweet son
10397
Points
Sweet son 04/12/12 - 04:57 pm
8
0
Azziz has been given

Azziz has been given everything that he wants. I am tired as a tax payer for having to fund his whims!! Think of all of the MCG employees who have gone without!!! The State needs to take all of his pay and let PPG fund him! Wonder what the docs who participate in PPG think of him? Not much I hope!

raul
4861
Points
raul 04/12/12 - 05:13 pm
2
0
@Countyman. While Harrisburg

@Countyman. While Harrisburg has never been an upscale neighborhood, the decline due to Section 8 housing and increase in crime has been dramatic. Also, central avenue all the way up to Monte Sano ave has deteriorated over the past few years. Likewise, the apartment complex on the road running by Electrolux in National Hills.

Sweet son
10397
Points
Sweet son 04/12/12 - 05:30 pm
4
0
Oh, one other thing. How

Oh, one other thing. How dumb was it to build a new School of Dentistry Building without classrooms?? Maybe this one does not belong to the King of the Universities but it still seems dumb!

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 04/12/12 - 06:31 pm
0
1
As with past presidents of

As with past presidents of MCG, we will all be pushing the moving van with Azziz in tow. All this is not his doing, he is just the hatchet man for aomone higher up.

Riverman1
83808
Points
Riverman1 04/12/12 - 06:44 pm
2
1
Augusta State University and

Augusta State University and put above Georgia Health Sciences University the ASU name indicating GHSU is part of ASU.

Riverman1
83808
Points
Riverman1 04/12/12 - 06:47 pm
1
0
"Dr. Azziz came to Augusta

"Dr. Azziz came to Augusta with a vision and didn't look back in the mirror.. The Walmart deal, GGHF property, Laney Walker Boulevard, MCG to GHSU, etc.. "

He's certainly not in favor of the Walmart and Laney Walker he really wants to close completely.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 04/12/12 - 09:08 pm
3
0
All this talk about

All this talk about neighborhoods declining...if they would just lock the repeat offenders up in the first place they wouldn't have as bad a problem. They are too lax on criminals.

allhans
23641
Points
allhans 04/12/12 - 09:37 pm
2
0
I can tell some folks have

I can tell some folks have never used the pedestrian walk. I have. Lots of times. When the sign tells motorists to stop and they do, then the exception, then here comes the road hog who refuses to even slow down, who have people scattering for their lives, and you call the walkers stupid .
Good gracious, folks. Use some logic here.

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 04/12/12 - 11:17 pm
0
0
Well nobody from Underwood or

Well nobody from Underwood or Gilbert Manor moved to Central Avenue so that's no relevant.. Somebody might have been given a section 8 voucher to live in Harrisburg.. Harrisbug did decline several years ago and not just recently, but the Kroc Center, Eve Street Row, renovated Sibley Mill, Martha Lester School, Broad street Mill Village, and Walmart deal will help turn the raggedy side of the neighborhood around.. There's still very nice areas located inside of Harrisburg..

I'll have to disagree on Central Avenue due to the continued growth of Midtown.. Paine College is building new dorms on the end of Central near 15th street. Several new businesses have opened especially along Monte Sano and Kings Way(Two Moms Cookies, 5 O'clock Bistro, Buona Caffe Artisan Roasted Coffee, etc...

Expect to see the additional crowds of people walking up and down Central Avenue between Monte Sano and Kings way especially..

itsanotherday1
43015
Points
itsanotherday1 04/12/12 - 11:35 pm
1
0
Just drove up Broad past the

Just drove up Broad past the Kroc Center tonight and was commenting to my wife that I don't think it will result in any gentrification of the area. It is a jewel set in tin. Instead of remodeling Olmstead homes, they should have been bulldozed and sold to a developer. Across Lake Olmstead the homes and atmosphere is a lot better, and a new development there would have allowed gentrification to creep east along Broad. With a project sitting there, it is a lost cause.

madgerman
236
Points
madgerman 04/13/12 - 08:57 am
0
0
Eight pedestrians have been
Unpublished

Eight pedestrians have been struck since 1995? Well lets see thats about an accident every 2 years or so. Now if we can use that ststistic for LW why can't we shut Washington Road which has a few more than that? P.S. I agree with Little Lamb that if medical students can not remember to look both ways (my mama taught me that back in the 50s and I still practice it today) then they sure have a learning problem.

allhans
23641
Points
allhans 04/13/12 - 09:13 am
0
0
itsanotherday..Maybe that can

itsanotherday..Maybe that can still be done. The city owns land that would better suit those who now reside in Olmstead Homes.
Don't give up yet, the money is flowing free.

PghSteelersFan
140
Points
PghSteelersFan 04/13/12 - 09:39 am
0
0
MCG has been trying to close

MCG has been trying to close Laney-Walker for ages. I was a kid when the idea first came up and now I can say that I belong to the 'Senior' set. It isn't something that was just decided to try in the last few years. When MCG first built the 'married student housing' on the old public housing project, the talk started about 'how'. There was an idea to route all the traffic along Railroad Ave to Wrightsboro, make Wrightsboro a 4 lane road all the way out past Daniel Village and close Laney/Walker completely. Another idea that 'popped up' was to extend Central Ave straight ahead as 4 lane at Druid Park to 15th Street. Letting traffic from Greene St/Broad St, basically downtown, pass by Laney Walker and then turn right on Central to go up the hill. In those days there were Doctor's offices in front of the old University Hospital and both motels were operating. The Doctors and the motels 'let go with the cannons' and the idea was dropped. The road was left alone. Now it seems that the President of MCG has decided that Laney/Walker is a 'State' road. I don't know when it got that designation. I have not 'lived' in Augusta since the late 1990's but it was never a 'State' road that I know of. It is just a local road running through State Property unless somewhere along the line, the State 'purchased' the street itself and I am not aware of it. In times past, Laney/Walker was a major 'rush hour' street for SRP workers to come and go but the street was never a
'State Highway'.
If MCG wants to 'reduce' the size of Laney/Walker, then the State should go dust off those old plans for re-routing the traffic, update them, and pay the entire cost of construction related to the plans.
People who 'dart' across a street without being at an 'official' crossing site are 'jaywalking' and they should be charged with it. Drivers, while trying to be safe, are not always prepared for 'darting people' regardless of what street they are driving on. Laney/Walker is no exception.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 04/13/12 - 10:19 am
0
0
Unless you are in the housing
Unpublished

Unless you are in the housing authority how could you possibly know who in section 8 moved where? I would agree that south augusta's decline started before Gilbert Manor and unless addressed fast will decline even further until it looks more like Detroit and some sections of Atlanta.

Little Lamb
45908
Points
Little Lamb 04/13/12 - 10:29 am
0
0
Don't worry about the funding

Don't worry about the funding for this project. It will be paid with left-over SPLOST dollars. Everyone knows that's not real money. If you don't believe me, just ask Fred (What, me worry?) Russell.

TakeAHike
186
Points
TakeAHike 04/13/12 - 11:42 am
0
0
It's too bad the locals

It's too bad the locals wouldn't allow a pedestrian mall. Most campuses have a quad, lawn, green, drill field or whatever they want to call it but GHSU has an ugly and inefficient 4 lane road through it instead. There's little traffic on it because it's easier to go around but those who do cut through dangerously show their impatience. Kudos to Azziz for trying and slap to the back of the head goes to the idiots who blocked the initial plan. I fail to see how a street name honors people more than greenspace.

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