As the city of Jefferson grows and changes to keep up with modern times, city officials want to make sure that the area doesn’t lose its historic charm.
One way the city is planning to maintain its period appeal is by completing the Jefferson streetscapes project.
"We will start at dead center in downtown," said Beth Laughinghouse, Better Hometown manager, the department that is overseeing the project.
"There will be lots of areas for plantings, and we’ll be redoing the street lights and traffic signals," she said.
Instead of hanging from overhead wires, traffic signals in the center of downtown Jefferson will be mounted on wrought-iron styled poles. Individual street lights will also be replaced with a similar style pole.
The project will be centered at the intersection of Washington, Lee and Sycamore streets. The Jefferson streetscapes project is being funded by a $500,000 federal grant and by a $125,000 contribution from the city of Jefferson.
Once complete, city officials anticipate the project will be beneficial to all of Jefferson, not just the downtown portion where the project is based.
"This is designed to help promote and revitalize downtown," Laughinghouse said. "But what happens downtown and how downtown looks affects all businesses all over Jefferson because at some point, all business owners or potential business owners have to come downtown for permits, a license or some other business."
While the goal of the project is to bring back some of area’s historic charm from the mid to late 1800s, Laughinghouse says the project also will help to make the area safer for pedestrians.
"You pretty much take your life in your own hands when you try to cross (Lee) street now," she said. "When the project is complete, it will include new crosswalks, with electronic signals that will make it safer for pedestrians to get across the street. But the process is going to have to include a re-education of drivers to make this a more pedestrian friendly community."
Ultimately, city officials would like to extend the project east to Storey Street and west to Athens Street, but the overall scope of the project largely depends on how much infrastructure work has to come out of the project’s budget.
"The streetscapes project will include wider sidewalks, and it would be great if we could have sidewalks down both sides of the street and tie the project in with the civic center (off Storey Street)," Laughinghouse said. "But our ability to do that depends on how much money we have to spend on underground and rewiring work. And we won’t know how much that work is going to cost us until we get down in there."
Because the major arteries of the project also are state roads, city officials can’t get started on the streetscapes project until they get the seal of approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
"The DOT is doing some preliminary testing now, and we hope to be able to get things started by at least February," Laughinghouse said.