Dunwoody, Atlanta show two different roads to improving mobility

AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin

AJC Photo / Hyosub Shin

Dunwoody has a problem with traffic congestion on one of its busiest roads and — take note, Atlanta — isn’t pretending large numbers of motorists can be induced to start riding bikes instead.

Rather, the nearly seven-year-old city is taking a very grown-up approach. It’s taking the initiative to build a new road to relieve some of the pressure from growth near Perimeter Mall, which will only get worse as a spate of offices and apartments rise from the ground.

Imagine that.

Anyone who travels or crosses Hammond Drive between Ashford-Dunwoody and Peachtree-Dunwoody roads during rush hour, including those of us who work at the AJC, knows what slow going it can be. Dunwoody’s proposed Westside Connector would take westbound traffic directly off I-285, underneath Ashford-Dunwoody, between an existing strip mall and a once-and-future office complex, and connect it onto Perimeter Center Parkway at the new towers State Farm is building.

So necessary is another piece for the area’s limited road-grid that a private developer donated 6 acres to help ensure the road is built.

“People don’t give up stuff for free if they don’t see value in it,” said Mayor Mike Davis. “We’re proactively going out and trying to find a way to fix (the problem).”

Will it be a large solution or a small one? Dunwoody officials say it would eventually remove up to 700 cars an hour from the Hammond/Ashford-Dunwoody intersection. If that sounds like a lot, consider State Farm alone is building office space for 8,000 workers. Other nearby developments are zoned for almost 2 million square feet of office space — by comparison, Bank of America Plaza, Atlanta’s tallest building, has 1.3 million — plus almost 800,000 square feet of retail, 3,800 residential units and 1,150 hotel rooms.

That’s a lot of oncoming traffic.

Even if this new road is just a small piece of the puzzle, it’s a welcome development in a metro area where elected officials too often do nothing about traffic problems or, almost inconceivably, make them worse.

The “do nothing” part you’ve heard about repeatedly. The “make it worse” option increasingly crops up in the form of so-called road diets.

If your body’s arteries are clogged, modifying your diet is a good idea. Simply cutting arteries out of your body and expecting the blood to flow elsewhere isn’t. The latter is akin to taking away lane space for cars to make room for bicyclists.

Peachtree Road is in the traffic nutritionists’ sights at the moment. A new plan calls for taking away two traffic lanes on a 2-mile stretch of the road, and replacing them with a center turn lane and a bike lane on each side.

I live nearby and can attest to the need for a center turn lane; the innermost lane in each direction is pretty much used that way now. But that only makes the remaining lanes more crowded, with more growth on the way. Most times of the day, Peachtree already looks like it needs a turn lane plus three lanes, not two.

We are kidding ourselves that a 4-foot bike lane is truly safe on such a major thoroughfare. Among its other qualities, the Beltline smartly separates cars from bikes and pedestrians. While that isn’t possible everywhere, it should be the aspiration. Indeed, a north-south bike and pedestrian corridor through Buckhead, hugging Ga. 400, is under development.

Frustrated motorists want to see other options, but not at the expense of roads.

Reader Comments 0

40 comments
Frank Thomas
Frank Thomas

Peachtree is losing lanes whether bike lanes were included or not. It is currently a 6-lane roadway with no left turn lanes.  Multilane roadways with no left turn lanes and with each direction of traffic separated by a double yellow solid line have the most crashes of any type of road.  It will be changed to two lanes in each direction with a center bidirectional left turn lane.  You act like the bike lanes are taking lanes away from cars- they wouldn't have. You will still have to deal with bikes on Peachtree.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Kyle, I read this in the Sunday hardcopy.  Excellent.

The problem with the bicycle riders is that even though the law makes them equal to cars they simply are not.

It's difficult to get them to first understand how they impede traffic.

And then that no matter how much they were in the right, if a car hits them and either injures or kills them, who was right won't really matter except to the widow's pocketbook.

Come to think of it, are most bikers Liberals?  It sure sounds like it. 

foo2u
foo2u

If I could catch a train in Kennesaw and hop off a few blocks from my office in Buckhead, I would so do that...

Sadly Cobb won't allow this. So I sit in my car 2-3 hours a day as Atlanta traffic slowly sucks my soul away. I can't wait for the summer traffic, which used to be marginally better, starting in 2017...

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

All of Metro Atlanta needs to go on a nonstop road building/widening binge now that additional funding from the fuel tax increase is coming online. We've listened to the tree huggers far too long, and as a result we're now seriously behind the transportation curve.

Like it or not vehicle traffic is only going to increase. Mass transit is a nonstarter.  

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@stogiefogey The main point is it shouldn't be either/or. And it shouldn't be one at the expense of another except to the degree limited funds force us to make choices.

Claver
Claver

@stogiefogey "We've listened to the tree huggers far too long,and as a result we're now seriously behind the transportation curve."

It is not the tree huggers that have stopped Republican legislatures and Republican Governors in Georgia for the last 12 years from funding road construction.  And it is not city of Atlanta residents that overwhelmingly voted against funding a metro area transportation plan.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@stogiefogey

There are many in the area who do use mass transit and have organized their lives around that, perhaps by living close to MARTA.  We already have that choice.

Of course, that's not good enough for busybodies--nearly 100% of them Democrats--who know better than we how to live our lives.  They'd like to force their beliefs on everyone else.

foo2u
foo2u

Welcome to wingnut "think" where building roads just to stick it to "tree huggers" is the only possible solution.

A dependable rail system from cobb to Buckhead and midtown would do very well. And for the folks in Cobb, we could prohibit the carrying of flat screens so."those people" couldn't ride the train up there and steal them...

NicholasJ
NicholasJ

This article shows that there is a cultural misunderstanding of urban development here in the Atlanta region.  As a city urbanizes, it eventually reaches a point where the density of people and their cars overcome any capability for streets and roads to handle the traffic.  The only solution is to begin providing alternative forms of transportation.  This is not theory this is best practice, proven again and again and again by cities worldwide.  


Now one could debate whether this specific area needs a cycle track, dedicated lane streetcar, or BRT, but frankly either of these modes of more efficient transportation will take away a lane or two from motorist.  When you get right down to it, the truth of the matter is that  individual car travel is the least efficient way to move thousands of people daily.  


As density increases car travel's advantages of speed and convenience wither away (look at NYC, Chicago, Tokyo, etc.) and if the COA keeps growing at its current clip, without investment in alternative forms of transportation NOW (before the tsunami hits), you will be left with a sea of cars jammed on your streets with no one getting anywhere. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@NicholasJ "Now one could debate whether this specific area needs a cycle track, dedicated lane streetcar, or BRT, but frankly either of these modes of more efficient transportation will take away a lane or two from motorist."

Taking away a lane for streetcar or BRT would be a different argument IMO. It has, in fact, occurred to me that, given the lack of popularity for taking lane space away from cars for transit, if you wanted to do that on Peachtree it might make sense to take the lane away,convert to bikes, and then later convert again to transit.

Not saying that's actually what's happening here.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@NicholasJ

Nonsense.  People aren't going to move to a city with traffic like what you're describing.  The problem is self-correcting.

bu2
bu2

@NicholasJ

Atlanta is one of the least dense major metro areas in the country.  Other than Charlotte, nobody is less dense among the top 50 metros.  Among the top 70, only Charlotte, Birmingham and Baton Rouge are less dense.


Atlanta's urban area has a density of 1,706 based on the 2010 census.  Fellow sprawl poster children Houston and Phoenix have densities of 2,978 and 3,165.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@LilBarryBailout @NicholasJ Was just in Chicago ( Wrigley Field ) and you are right.


We didn't need a car to get anywhere. A little bit of walking but that is ok. Need the exercise.





lvg
lvg

Yes private funding to increase the value of traffic locked property is commendable. Of course same property is across from a MARTA station but we know who uses that form of transit.


The Dunwood access Road to get to the State Farm Office complex and others is  an extended off ramp from 285 westbound only. And this is going to ease 285  congestion how? And what are Kyle's and his GOP buddies doing in Congress to fund a much more crucial funding source --- the federal haighway and transt bill to create thousands of jobs and infrastructure repairs. KILLED by Cons- infighting over ex-im bank (thousands  more jobs killed  by Cruz and tea heads ); planned parenthood etc.


1.1 billion dollars in 2012 to untangle 285 and 400 - where is that money???? and why has that crucial project been stalled???? Good reporter could tell us that.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg "And this is going to ease 285  congestion how?"

No one claims it will ease 285 congestion. It's supposed to ease traffic on Hammond.

"1.1 billion dollars in 2012 to untangle 285 and 400 - where is that money???? and why has that crucial project been stalled????"

What do you mean stalled? Some surveying work appears to be under way from what I've seen. The completion date is supposed to be 2018-19. It's 2015.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg For the Hammond road project or the 400/285 rebuild?

straker
straker

"taking a very grown-up approach"


Which immediately excludes the City of Atlanta.

PantherWin
PantherWin

My god you're clueless. Go visit Portland. Go visit Seattle. Go visit NYC. Go visit Oakland. Major cities that prove everything you said here completely wrong. The Atlanta model is how great international cities stay great. And buffered bike lanes DO work. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Ah the age old Atlanta solution to traffic.


More roads. Which of course means more cars. Which leads to more roads.


Rinse and repeat. Pure genius

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Hedley_Lammar And how would you account for the arrival of perhaps 20,000 more workers within a quarter-mile radius? Even if you got half of them to take an alternate form of transportation -- which would be an astounding success for such an effort -- you're talking about adding about 10,000 cars a day to a road that's congested as it is.

This kind of "more roads" criticism sounds great, but it's utterly divorced from reality.

lvg
lvg

@Kyle_Wingfield @Hedley_Lammar -the I  575 private bypas to 285 is going to do the same thing as this little 1,00 foot bypass- feed more cars onto 285 . Other cities would have greatly expanded Marta by now or had a Northern arc for trucks from 85 to 75. Eventually 285 will have to be expanded or heaven forbid be accompanied by a rail line around the perimeter.connecting all the metro counties.  Then people would have to commute by rail like the grown up cities up north.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@lvg "the I  575 private bypas to 285"

What are you talking about?

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

As to the Perimeter proposed new road, they still have to get GDOT and FHWA approval for the ramp off the proposed CD lanes apart of the I 285 SR400 interchange reconstruction. Also, what happens at the intersection of Perimeter Parkway and Hammond Drive? Past DRI studies indicated all approaches to that intersection needs double turn lanes and the road between PDR and ADR needs to be 6 lanes. When will that be done? Oh and the little "hook" ramp from the EB road to I285 WB is under designed. Also , where does that traffic intend to go since all lanes on I 285 are presently filled beyond capacity at rush hour for many hours a day?


As for P'tree, I agree with your assessment that a center turn lane is needed and that it replaces the 2 inside lanes, which are usually blocked when a car is waiting to turn left. So that leaves space for the bike lanes. The bike path that is proposed for SR 400 does not serve this area. Routing bikes through the windy narrow neighborhood roads with poor sight distances and rolling grades and on street parking is not that safe or efficient. Yes locals use them but they are not commuter types of facilities. The bike lane is needed on both sides of the street and should extend from Buckhead at Piedmont down to Brookwood station. Even by "loosing" a lane in each direction, with proper signage and signal coordination, traffic will move at the same pace or improve due to reduced weaving of traffic and conflicts. Throughput improved in the Buckhead business district when conflicts between vehicles, bike, and pedestrians were improved.


For those who do not like bikes, or the space they use, slow down and get used to them. They are coming on this and other facilities. 

MANGLER
MANGLER

Oh good, that new little 1,000 foot long chunk of road in Dunwoody will go underneath the existing intersection at the off-ramp.  I initially thought they were going to make it a more confusing intersection than it already is.


As for "road diets".  The point isn't to allow for more traffic.  It is to slow down the traffic that is there.  Constantly widening is not going to solve the issue of where people choose to live and work.

bu2
bu2

@MANGLER

All the more reason it is idiotic to put road diets on major thoroughfares.  Its one thing to do it on a residential street.  On a commercial street like Peachtree, designed to move traffic, it makes no sense to slow traffic.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@MANGLER "It is to slow down the traffic that is there."

Which is not what you want to do on a major cross-town arterial. Other roads? Maybe.

Claver
Claver

I like the Atlanta model and as someone who bikes to work a couple times a week a four foot bike lane on a busy street does make a big difference.  I love the beltline, but it does not run where I need to go.

bu2
bu2

Ah!  A voice of reason.


I haven't figured out if all these city planners with their road diets just hate cars and want to make things difficult for motorists or if they are just nuts.  I know the cyclists who choose to ride on major arteries are nuts.  What is hard to understand is why people listen to them.


The do nothing crowd is the Jimmy Carter legacy with his idea of "limits."  There is a mentality of "We can't do that" or "That's not possible."  Rather than drilling for oil, you should turn the thermostat and wear a sweater.  In Atlanta planners, rather than building new roads, just hope other people ride mass transit and that the increasing congestion doesn't drive people and jobs away. 

M H Smith
M H Smith

You gotta love the Urban Planning at work. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

We need to get over this green push for bikes on roads, our culture is cars.  There should be bike trails for those enthusiasts, but bikes should not be mixed with cars on our roads, it is very unsafe.  


Mary Katherine Ham lost her husband yesterday, when a car struck him while riding a bike; pray for her and her family.