As one travels down any number of Atlanta streets, he or she may begin to experience a number of interesting contradictions to the city’s influence on street design, safety, and infrastructure.
Just 10 streets — including Moreland Ave, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Cascade Road, Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard SW, Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway NW, Campbellton Road SW, 10th Street NW, Lee Street SW, Joseph E. Boone Boulevard NW, and Metropolitan Parkway SW — account for a third of traffic fatalities and a fifth of severe injuries.
In fact, according to a study conducted by Georgia Tech’s School of City & Regional Planning, less than 8 percent of Atlanta’s streets account for 88 percent of fatalities and 52 percent of severe injuries.
Concerned about the danger that children and elders face when walking along and across streets like these, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and her administration have taken steps to make transportation a high priority as she enters the last two years of her first term as mayor.
The “One Atlanta: Strategic Transportation Plan” made its debut in November 2019 alongside the announcement of an executive director for the City of Atlanta’s newly formed Department of Transportation (ATLDOT).
“Today, our children and grandparents are threatened with wide, dangerous streets, and constant traffic congestion strains family budgets,” Bottoms stated in the opening message of the transportation plan. “Our region is expected to add 2.5 million people by 2040, which underscores the urgent need to address the challenges created by past decisions and build a more accessible, equitable transportation system.”
“This first-ever transportation strategic plan is a blueprint for a safer, more equitable and more sustainable transportation network — one where everyone can travel where they need to go and trust that the roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit system will get them there safely, reliably and efficiently,” Bottoms continued.
The mayor shared similar sentiments about the formation of the Department of Transportation, which she initially announced would be developed in her State of the City of address last March. During that address, she described the Department of Transportation as a “one-stop-shop, combining the work of multiple City departments, to better deliver for Atlanta’s mobility future.”
“This new Department will provide a unified voice and vision for mobility in our city,” she said. “Built with dedicated staff from our Department of Public Works, City Planning and Renew Atlanta, ATLDOT will be fully equipped to plan, design, construct, and maintain our mobility network-one-stop shop for our streets.”
Bottoms named Josh Rowan as commissioner of ATLDOT. Rowan, who previously served as general manager for the City of Atlanta’s Renew and Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) programs, will manage a range of transportation improvements—from roadway repair and maintenance to sidewalk and bike lane construction to upgrading streetlights and traffic signals.
ATLDOT will absorb the city’s Office of Mobility Planning and the Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Bond program, as well as all other transportation-related operations of the departments of Planning and Public Works.
“I’ve been building roads and implementing transportation policy for nearly 25 years in the region and I look forward to helping plan for Atlanta and the region’s mobility future,” Rowan said about his new appointment to ATLDOT commissioner.
According to Rowan’s biography, since graduating from Georgia Tech in 1996, he has served as either program manager or corporate principal for $5 billion in facility and infrastructure construction for local, state, federal, and international owners and public agencies.
The “One Atlanta: Strategic Transportation Plan” focuses on the first three years of the new agency, including 27 goals for ATLDOT that outline a road map of outcomes for the agency’s first year through the end of 2022.
The ambitious 284-page transportation plan was organized around Bottom’s “One Atlanta” pillars, which include: (1) a safe, welcoming and inclusive city; (2) thriving neighborhoods, communities and businesses; (3) world-class employees, infrastructure, and services; and (4) ethical, transparent and fiscally responsible government.
ATLDOT along with its 83 partners has plans for over the next three years to construct or complete more than $200 million in mobility infrastructure projects in the City of Atlanta. Along with 28 measurable benchmarks, ATLDOT has a lot of work to oversee in these next 36 months.
According to the plan, 72 percent of fatalities and 42 percent of injuries take place on 6 percent of Atlanta’s roadways while as much as 60 percent of the city’s street conditions are fair or worsening.
This especially seems to be the case for residents who live in Southwest and Northwest Atlanta, these disadvantages are even greater.
Residents in these areas of town have complained of having to navigate limited-to-no pedestrian infrastructure, including residential streets with 30 mph speed limits, very little sidewalks along busy intersections and a lack of MARTA bus shelters.
“My neighborhood has no sidewalks, none whatsoever,” said Wykeisha Howe, a resident of the Beecher-Donnelly community with kids who attend Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy. “My kids’ school is only a block away from our home, but we must cross two busy streets to walk there. So, we drive instead.
“I don’t know what we must do, but we have to get people to understand that pedestrians must be respected,” she added. “It’s just time to do something. These are streets, not racetracks.”
Adah Pittman-Delancey, a community transportation advocate and former communications director for Atlanta Bike Coalition, agreed with Howe and added that the formation of ATLDOT and transportation are long overdue.
“Anytime is the right time when you are past time, based on data showing population growth after the ’96 Olympics,” she said. “It’s time to support the growth of Atlanta. They are one step closer with this plan. But we are still going to be waiting for implementation.”
Implementation of the plan and the application of resources will make all the difference in whether the plan is successful, Pittman-Delancey suggested.
“My hope is that the department priorities communities that have been marginalized,” she said. “The plan sounds good all the community partners are great. I know that they had a highly knowledgeable team that was a part of the planning phase. But, it’s going to take the community to be apart of the plan for proper implantation.”
Coinciding with ten major redevelopment projects: Herndon Homes, 740 W. Peachtree, 1105 W. Peachtree, Turn Field Lots, Interlock/ Tech West, 1350 W. Marietta, 760 Ralph McGill, The Spur at Centennial Yards, Pittsburg Yards, and Fort Mac—Atlanta’s residents will start to see changes to 16 of our inner-city streets, including:
- Fairburn Road: Upgrade Pedestrian & Bicycle Facilities
- Cascade Road: Sidewalk Replacement, Bike Lanes and Multi-use trails, Streetlighting and Bus stop Enhancements
- Martin Luther King Jr. Dr: New Bike Facilities, Bus Shelter Improvements, Upgraded Pedestrian facilities and street repaving
- Joseph E. Lowery Blvd.: Upgrade Pedestrian Facilities, Landscaping and Streetlights and street repaving
- Atlanta Beltline: Westside trail connection
- 5th Street: Sidewalk replacement, ADA ramps and crosswalks, upgrade bike facilities and street repaving
- Howell Mill Road: Crosswalk Improvements, new bike facilities, and Signal Operations upgrade
- Moores Mill Road + Wesley Road: Signal Operations Upgrade and Safety Improvements
- Piedmont Road: Capacity and intersection improvements
- Juniper St: New Bike facilities, upgraded pedestrian facilities, streetscaping, and stormwater improvements
- Monroe Dr. + Boulevard: Upgrade pedestrian and Bike facilities
- Dekalb Ave: Resurfacing, signal operations upgrade, safety improvements and removal of the reversible lane
- Moreland Ave + Glenwood Ave: Intersection realignment & signal operations upgrade
- Central Ave. + Spring St: Bridge Reconstruction
- Atlanta Beltline: Extension of existing Westside Trail to Southside Trail