The Auburn City Council approved a change to the Cox Road construction plan Tuesday night, opting to add a two-way turn lane rather than the two previously planned bike lanes.
During the Committee of the Whole meeting prior to its regular meeting, the City Council voted 7 to 1 to add a resolution to the main agenda to alter the contract for the Cox Road widening project. The resolution later passed in a 5 to 3 vote during Tuesday night’s regular meeting.
Ward 6 Councilperson Bob Parsons, Ward 2 Councilperson Kelley Griswold and Ward 4 Councilperson Brett Smith voted against the change. Ward 5 Councilperson Steven Dixon was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Per the Auburn Bicycle Plan, the city has an informal policy to add bike lanes to city streets identified on the Bike Paths Map and Bicycle Facility Recommendations from the 2017 Citywide Traffic Study, according to the passed resolution. The Bicycle Plan emphasizes connectivity in the city.
The Council waived the informal city policy to add bike lanes to Cox Road from Fieldview Drive to Wire Road by selecting a two-way motor vehicle turn lane.
Ward 8 Councilperson Tommy Dawson, who lives on Cox Road alongside constituents, first asked the Council to discuss the issue at the May 18 Committee of the Whole after hearing from his constituents.
Six Auburn residents voiced their opposition or agreement with altering the plan during Citizen’s Communications, and two additional citizens brought up the action post-vote during Citizen’s Open Forum before the Council adjourned at 9:06 p.m.
Ward 8 resident and leader of the Saturday Bike and Breakfast bicycle group Randall McDaniel said the cycling group used to frequent Cox Road but found “it was just too dangerous.”
“The idea of a turn lane for a bicyclist is scary,” McDaniel said. “The idea is that I’m going to be down the center of the road as somebody is going to whip out of the traffic to make a left turn and will be coming right at me, so that’s a concern.”
Cox Road has seen an increase in traffic in recent years, as many residents use the road as a bypass to and from Auburn from Interstate 85, according to Dawson and nearby residents.
“There’s so much traffic,” Ward 8 resident Clay Langford said. “I don’t think people realize how much traffic comes off from [Interstate] 85 in the morning going to Auburn and going back from Auburn to Montgomery and other places.”
“I’m not anti-cycling, but we shouldn’t be advocating for bringing more people in,” he added.
The Cox Road widening project also includes the installation of an 8-foot multi-use path on the east side of Cox Road from Longleaf Drive to Wire Road.
“It’s kind of quirky right now,” Mayor Ron Anders said. “As Tommy [Dawson] has said, it’s an old country road that wasn’t meant for a lot of traffic and is now becoming a major thoroughfare into our community.”
“I believe just based on what’s bound to happen in that area is there’s going to be significant redevelopment on Cox Road and there’s going to be more cars out there and there’s going to be more people out there and from my perspective, the best thing to do for this community is to make it the most palatable for our vehicles,” he said. “I would hope this wouldn’t be viewed as an either-or vote for supporting bicyclists or not support bicyclists. I certainly support bicyclists and your right to be on our roads.”
A request to postpone the proposal to the June 15 Council meeting by Smith failed before the vote.
Construction began in June 2020 and was expected to be completed in November 2020. The wet season and contractor delays are both causes for the ongoing construction, according to city engineer Alison Frazier.