Road Safety Audits in Macon-Bibb County

2016 was an important year for transportation safety in Macon-Bibb County. It was the first year that Road Safety Audits (RSA) were conducted in the county. Three RSAs were completed in the county in 2016, two led and organized by GDOT and one led and organized by county staff.

All three of the RSAs were initiated in response to concerns about fatal crashes along the selected study corridors. Although fatal pedestrians crashes account for 26% of all fatal crashes in the county between 2011-2015, they accounted for 91% of the fatal crashes (10 of 11) in the RSA study corridors. The RSA study corridors also accounted for 35% of all fatal pedestrian crashes and 10% of all fatal crashes in the county between 2011-2015.

All three study corridors lack comprehensive and connected pedestrian facilities. This means that despite adjacent land uses that include multi-family housing and popular commercial destinations and evidence of pedestrian use along the corridor, sidewalks, midblock crossings, convenient and frequent crosswalks and signalized pedestrian crossings are missing along larger portions of these roadways. Where pedestrian facilities like crosswalks and crossing signals are present, they are often not connected to sidewalks. Where sidewalks are present, distances between crosswalks can be as far as far as a ¼ mile apart.

The 2016 RSAs were conducted on the following high crash corridors:

  • Eisenhower Parkway from C Street to Bloomfield Road (Jan. 2016) – GDOT
  • Emery Highway and Jeffersonville Road from North Avenue to Irwinton Road (June 2016) – GDOT
  • Gray Highway from Shurling Drive to the county line (October 2016) – Macon-Bibb County

What is a Road Safety Audit?

A Road Safety Audit is a formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an audit team. RSAs have been used successfully for a wide variety of locations to identify potential solutions leading to both short-term improvements and longer term efforts including construction projects. It is a proactive tool, not solely dependent on crash data, but rather an innovative approach to identify safety issues to be considered in improvement projects.

The actual audit is a three-step process for the gathered team. These steps are: 1) the pre-audit meeting to review the project information, 2) the field review, and 3) the audit analysis. During these three key steps, the audit team has the opportunity to provide an objective, unbiased summary of safety issues, needs identification and consideration of local conditions, then make suggestions for future short, intermediate, and long term improvements.

All three of the RSAs completed in 2016 followed this format. The primary difference between the GDOT-led RSA model and the county-led RSA model is that the county-led RSA focuses on identifying potential safety concerns and does not make specific recommendations for improvements.

Eisenhower Parkway (US 80 / SR 22) RSA – from C Street to Bloomfield Road – GDOT – January 2016

In January 2016, GDOT, along with local agencies and transportation officials, conducted a RSA for a 2.7 mile segment of Eisenhower Parkway from C Street to Bloomfield Road.

The Problem
The need to conduct a RSA was initiated by a call from a citizen living near C Street with concerns about lighting, pedestrian crossings, and sidewalks. Collision data for 2011-2015 indicated that the two fatal crashes along the corridor had both killed pedestrian. Unfortunately, after the RSA was conducted, a pedestrian was killed along the corridor in June 2016, and another pedestrian was killed in April 2016 approximately 1,100 feet east of the RSA study area. An additional pedestrian fatality occurred along the corridor in 2010, prior to the five-year RSA study period.

Safety Improvement Recommendations
High speeds, large intersections, long distances between protected crossings, and a lack of dedicated pedestrian and bicycle facilities makes the use of the corridor by people walking, biking and taking the bus challenging. There were also numerous issues observed impacting the safety of motor vehicle users.

The RSA concludes with a list of recommendations for improving safety along the corridor. The recommendations are sorted by priority (highest to lowest) and identifies the primary government entity (GDOT District 3, GDOT Office of Traffic Operations, Macon-Bibb County, Macon Transit Authority) responsible for addressing the safety recommendations.

Four categories of potential improvements emerged as a result of the RSA:

  1. Completing an intersection improvement project that upgrades signal equipment at multiple intersections including pedestrian signals, reflective back plates, and new properly placed signal strain poles; provides ADA accessible curb ramps with sidewalks connecting to the adjacent bus stops; and adds intersection lighting would correct many of the issues identified and improve safety of all road users.
  2. Converting the median breaks along the corridor into R-cuts would reduce conflicts and improve safety.
  3.  Adding sidewalks and bike lanes along the corridor that takes advantage of available right of way by converting to an urban shoulder and considering lane reconfigurations would also greatly improve access and safety for people walking, taking transit, and riding bikes, as well as provide a more uniform, predictable, and safe corridor for motor vehicle users.
  4. Installing raised pavement markings and refreshing all striping with next resurfacing.

GDOT’s Eisenhower Parkway (US 80 / SR 22) RSA summary report is available here.

Emery Highway (US 23 / US 80 / SR 19) RSA – from North Avenue to Irwinton Road – GDOT

In June 2016, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) along with local agencies and transportation officials, conducted a RSA for a 4.5 mile segment of Emery Highway / Jeffersonville Road (US 23 / US 80 / SR 19).

The Problem
The RSA was initiated at the request of GDOT District 3 and local officials from Macon-Bibb County in light of heavy traffic volumes, particularly in the western portion of the corridor, as well as the high incidence of pedestrian crashes along the corridor. Two lanes of the corridor cross the interstate highway and there is a substantial amount of development in the area. In addition, the corridor divides residential neighborhoods. There are few pedestrian facilities, if any, along most of the corridor but there is a fair amount of pedestrian traffic. The RSA was prompted, in part, by concern for the many users of the road, including motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists. An RSA was seen as a way to examine, evaluate, and identify potential solutions to some of the safety concerns related to these issues.

Between 2011 and 2015, there were a total of 231 injury crashes that caused injury to 361 people. Four crashes were fatal during this timeframe. Three of the four fatal crashes killed pedestrians and all four crashes occurred in the half mile segment between Finneydale Drive and Irwinton Road in the eastern portion of the corridor, east of Ocmulgee East Boulevard.

Safety Improvement Recommendations
The audit team developed a comprehensive list of recommendations including both simple, short-term and more complex, long-term actions.

  1. Short-term recommendations include upgrading or installing pedestrian facilities consistently throughout the corridor, replacing or installing new signs alerting motorists to the speed limits and presence of medians in the roadway, and investigating sight distances more thoroughly to develop additional recommendations.
  2. Medium-term recommendations include improving visibility by upgrading traffic signals and street lights, resurfacing pavement, and investigating drainage issues.
  3. Long-term recommendations include upgrading existing medians, installing new raised medians where none currently exist, and undertaking projects to reconfigure specific intersections, such as at Short Street, Lakeside Road, and Emery Road.

GDOT’s Emery Highway (US 23 / US 80 / SR 19) RSA summary report is available here.

Gray Highway (US 129 / SR 11 / SR 22) RSA – from Shurling Drive to the County line – Macon-Bibb County – October 2016

In October 2016, Macon-Bibb County staff, along with local GDOT staff, conducted a RSA for a 2.3 mile segment of Gray Highway from Shurling Drive to the Jones County line.

The Problem
The RSA was initiated by Macon-Bibb County staff in light of heavy traffic volumes, particularly at the intersection with Shurling Drive at the southern terminus of the study corridor, and in recognition of pedestrian fatalities have occurred along the corridor. Between 2012-2016, 92 crashes resulted in 129 reported injuries and 4 fatalities. At least 8 crashes resulted in serious injuries. All 4 fatal crashes along the study corridor killed pedestrians: 1 at the intersection of Woodlawn Dr. / Wood Valley Rd., 2 roughly 1,200-1,500 feet south of the Woodlawn Dr. / Wood Valley Rd. intersection, and 1 between Shurling Drive and the start of the cement/vegetated median.

Safety Improvement Observations
Unlike the two GDOT led RSAs, the County led RSA focused on identifying safety concerns along the corridor and did not recommend specific safety improvements.

  1. The lack of pedestrians and bicyclists facilities is of particular concern given the number of multi-family units along the study corridor, the limited access to vehicles reported for census blocks adjacent to the study corridor, and the number of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries along the study corridor.
  2. Drainage issues are a concern along portions of the study corridor – particularly through the Walnut Creek floodplain.
  3. Focused studies of the Wood Valley Road / Woodlawn Drive intersection and the segment between Shurling Drive and the cement/vegetated median could propose effective safety countermeasures for all road users for these two high collision locations on the study corridor.

The County’s Gray Highway (US 129 / SR 11 / SR 22) RSA summary report is available here.