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Atlanta homeowner buys tractor to smooth out street as paving project drags on for years

By Harry Samler

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    ATLANTA (WANF) — When Joe Abercrombie moved his family from Alabama to Atlanta, Georgia, he thought he left country life behind. But his move into southeast Atlanta’s Ormewood Park came with a country vibe. The family lives on Ayr Place, one of Atlanta’s unpaved residential streets.

The unpaved portion of Ayr Place is less than a tenth of a mile, and because of its slope, residents say the city should have paved it years ago. Heavy rains routinely wash the gravel down the street, creating trenches that are nearly impossible for cars to navigate.

Homeowners provided Atlanta News First Investigates pictures of a Peloton delivery truck stuck in a trench and videos showing channels nearly a foot deep.

“I want you to look at this thing now; how are you supposed to drive through this?” neighbor Chris Heller said as he narrated the video, “They’ve been telling me for years that they are going to fix this!”

Joe Abercrombie got tired of waiting for city maintenance workers to smooth out the road. He bought a tractor.

“Look, it’s gotten so bad that I got on Facebook Marketplace and bought a tractor with a scrape on it,” he told Atlanta News First’s Consumer Investigator, Better Call Harry, “and I used to scrape up and down this road when the city wasn’t coming by to fix it.”

Residents in Homewood Park, a neighborhood across from Georgia Tech, have been trying to get the unpaved portion of Hirsch Street paved for two decades. AKM Mowla talked to Better Call Harry in 2016. When the story aired, the city sent a crew to smooth over the gravel, Mowla says it never lasts long.

“Of course I’m angry!” Mowla said in 2016, referring to drivers who had damaged their cars.

Millions in Funding Paid What frustrates homeowners here, and on several unpaved residential streets in Atlanta, is that voters provided the city with funding seven years ago.

In 2015 city leaders pushed for a citywide referendum to help take on a billion-dollar backlog of infrastructure projects. Voters approved “Renew Atlanta” to resurface or pave streets and fix sidewalks, crosswalks, bridges, traffic lights, and other infrastructure issues.

But city audits show that Renew Atlanta’s administration had issues. Audits identified problems with design and construction oversight and “the absence of well-defined, comprehensive policies.”

A 2020 city audit found that administration costs reached 1.1 million dollars a month in 2019. Renew Atlanta merged into the city’s newly created Department of Transportation to cut costs, replacing Atlanta’s Department of Public Works.

Project 1082 provided 1.5 million dollars of funding for eight unpaved roadways, including Ayr Place and Hirsch Street. Although the project started in 2016, the design phase didn’t end until June 2022. Residents can’t understand why the project allotted six years for some plans completed in 2018.

The city completed the right-of-way acquisition in October 2019. Since then, the project has been in the construction procurement phase as part of the design schedule.

Engineers completed the Ayr Street designs in 2019 for $118,000. The designs for Hirsch cost the city $157,500. The total cost for designs on Project 1082 is $851,000 before construction, according to city of Atlanta records.

Construction was scheduled for November 2022 but was delayed.

Following the review of submitted bids, the Office of Compliance determined none meet the required qualifications, based on the city’s regulations. The projects are currently in the re-bid process, which resulted in the latest scheduled change.

Atlanta Department of Transportation Spokesperson The paving of Braeburn Road, Main Street, Hirsch Street, Ayr Street, Newman Place, Ford Street, James Drive, and 5th Street should begin in March 2023, with an estimated completion in August 2024.

How long does the City of Atlanta take to pave small gravel streets? Nine years in this case.

Atlanta DOT statement:

The Atlanta Department of Transportation is dedicated to completing the Unpaved Roads Phase 1 and all Renew Atlanta-TSPLOST projects under its purview with the utmost quality and fiscal responsibility. Hirsh Street is one of several roads grouped together in Renew Atlanta’s Unpaved Roads Phase 1 for more efficient design, procurement, and construction. Designs for the road paving were completed in 2018, with the necessary right-of-way acquired in 2019. The project has been in procurement from November 2019 until the present, with no qualified bids presented. Currently, the project is being prepared to be re-solicit in January. The Mayor has appointed a new Chief Procurement Officer, Jaideep Majumdar, who is focused on a procurement process that is transparent, open, fair, and inclusive. These solicitations will offer the supplier community the opportunity to create value through partnership, collaboration, and innovation. ATLDOT is partnering with DOP to look at new procurement methods and doing outreach to the contracting community to encourage qualified bidders to pursue the work. It is our hope that a qualified bid will be released, and a contractor selected in the first quarter of 2023. Interest proponents are encouraged to visit for more information.

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