Published on October 27th, 2015 |2
Public gets chance for input on Peachtree Rd. plan Thursday, Oct. 29
The Georgia Department of Transportation and Buckhead Community Improvement District are hoping and expecting that several hundred Buckhead residents and business owners will participate in the public information meeting this Thursday (Oct. 29) regarding GDOT’s proposed changes to Peachtree Road—from Maple Drive on the north to Deering Road and I-85 on the south. The meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. in the Callaway Auditorium of the Shepherd Center, 2020 Peachtree Road in south Buckhead.
GDOT State Engineer Andrew Heath has presented GDOT’s Recommended Alternative for Peachtree Road at a series of meetings—starting with the Buckhead Community Improvement District in August. But Thursday is the first truly open meeting where the public finally has a chance to learn first-hand about the proposed transformation changes to the lengthy section of Peachtree Road.
It is GDOT’s preferred alternative from Pharr Road to I-85 and the Buckhead CID’s plan from Maple Drive to Pharr Road that will be presented to the general public during the meeting. And, it will be done in a much more explanatory way than GDOT has done in the past—with a series of stations to explain how GDOT came to its decision, step by step, including real-time traffic flow analyses shown on a big screen.
Each person attending will be given a comment sheet that they can fill out with their likes, dislikes and suggestions about the plan, which GDOT has promised it will thoroughly study and record in the days following the meeting.
The GDOT Recommended Alternative calls for a new dedicated two-way left-turn lane for the entire stretch from Pharr Road to Deering Road, which will be accompanied by new traffic signals to further ease left turns along the corridor.
It calls for three 10-foot-wide thru traffic lanes southbound and two 10-foot-wide thru traffic lanes northbound from Pharr Road south to Peachtree Battle Avenue.
From Peachtree Battle Avenue south to Deering Road, Peachtree would have two 10-foot-wide thru traffic lanes both northbound and southbound, with the center left-turn lane and 4-foot-wide bike lanes on both sides of the road for bikers traveling north and south along that part of the corridor.
Heath has explained that the plan would be for bicycle riders to leave Peachtree Road between Pharr Road and Peachtree Battle Avenue and use neighborhood surface streets for their travels. He pointed out Peachtree Battle Avenue already has bike lanes on it and there are plans for the BeltLine trail to connect to Peachtree Road near Peachtree Battle Avenue.
He also pointed out that the new PATH400 trail project is planned to connect to the BeltLine trail near Piedmont Road and Peachtree Creek in south
Buckhead. The BeltLine trail would then follow Peachtree Creek to Peachtree Road.
The GDOT proposal does not call for widening Peachtree Road at all along the corridor. Heath explained that Peachtree Road is a narrow 60-feet-wide from curb to curb the entire length of the corridor from Pharr Road to Deering Road.
Heath pointed out four major reasons for the Peachtree Road Project: 1) The road is due for repaving and there is an opportunity for restriping changes with the repaving, 2) safety needs were identified, 3) GDOT identified that making left turns is challenging along the corridor, and 4) there is a low (15 percent) utilization rate of the far left lanes in each direction.
The reason there is low utilization of the far left lanes is because drivers are afraid of getting trapped behind vehicles that are trying to turn left, Heath explained.
Heath said that 801 traffic accidents on the corridor between 2009 and 2013 shows the safety needs for changes. Of those accidents, 11 involved bicyclists and 42 pedestrians.
GDOT studied a total of six alternatives before deciding on the called the “Peachtree Battle Hybrid Alternative” as its recommendation.
In terms of operations, Heath said that alternative provides a more uniform system of vehicles through the corridor during both a.m. and p.m. hours, it allows for a more reliable commute and it increases the average throughput volume on Peachtree Road.
The Recommended Alternative does achieve all of GDOT’s goals: 1) the roadway will be repaved, 2) it improves safety for all road users, 3) it improves corridor reliability and operations, (4) it creates multimodal access on Peachtree to the BeltLine, and 5) it is sensitive to neighborhoods, residents and churches.
But Buckhead’s Peachtree Heights West neioghborhood—about 550 households along the west side of Peachtree Road from West Paces Ferry Road to Peachtree Battle Avenue—supports restriping Peachtree to have a two-way left-turn lane (TWLTL) and five through traffic lanes all the way from Pharr Road to I-85 with no bike lanes.
Why? Because they say this configuration, called the “6-Lane Hybrid” alternative, “is clearly the most efficient and highest performing roadway configuration according to GDOT’s data and analysis.”
A consensus position paper written for the neighborhood by resident John Foley states, “Our neighborhood is not opposed to bicycles or bicycle lanes. We have several bicycle lanes in our
neighborhood and a number of us are bicyclists. What we are opposed to is removing vehicle lanes from arterial roadways in our city – for whatever purpose – when those roadways are already well-beyond capacity.”
The neighborhood position explains: “Such a reduction in Peachtree’s lanes would seriously impact our neighborhood in two very crucial ways. First, as is well-documented by research, ‘road dieting’ of arterial roadways should only be attempted where the roadway is well-below capacity. Otherwise, the increase in traffic congestion caused by such dieting inevitably diverts traffic into adjoining neighborhoods (like ours) as drivers attempt to find less congested alternative routes.”
The paper continues, “Secondly, and as important, Peachtree is the primary artery used by us to go anywhere – work, shopping and recreation. We have to fight the congestion, delay and frustration of trying to travel on Peachtree every day, alongside tens of thousands of others from our city and the northern and western suburbs. We can attest that Peachtree is at its breaking point, and not just during rush hours.”
The neighborhood position states, “If Peachtree had a 120-foot right-of-way, it could accommodate dedicated turn lanes, a wide park-like median, dedicated bicycle lanes, tramways and generous sidewalks. Unfortunately, Peachtree in the area proposed to be dieted is only 60’ wide, with closely encroaching improvements on both sides of the street. It is also the busiest of only three north-south vehicle arteries in the northern half of the city. The reality is that we have to utilize the inadequate 60-foot width that we have as best we can.”
The Peachtree Heights neighborhood favors changing the striping on Peachtree so long as that change makes the most effective use of Peachtree’s limited right-of-way—“an economically reasonable way to improve what is already an unacceptable situation.”
In its report, GDOT considered five striping alternatives, including leaving the Peachtree lanes as they presently are. One of these alternatives, the 6-Lane Hybrid plan, substantially exceeded all
the others in roadway performance, according to the neighborhood position paper.
The alternative which GDOT is currently recommending is the “Battle” alternative with four through lanes, a TWLTL and two bicycle lanes between Peachtree Battle and I-85. Compared to the 6-Lane Hybrid plan, the score for GDOT’s Battle alternative is considerably worse. If the Battle alternative’s 5-Lane portion south of Peachtree Battle were applied to the full length of Peachtree from Buckhead to I-85, the score would be even worse, almost as bad as the score for doing nothing” the neighborhood concluded.
The neighborhood paper states, “Under GDOT’s recommended alternative, there will be no significant improvement in the operation of Peachtree from Peachtree Battle Avenue to I-85. That, however, is precisely the section of Peachtree with the greatest congestion: 45,000 vehicles a day.”
The neighborhoods conclusion: “For the foregoing reasons, our neighborhood urges adoption of the 6-Lane Hybrid striping plan. This is the alternative that GDOT’s data clearly shows is by far the best in making Peachtree a more functional arterial roadway and the alternative that is least likely to cause harm to adjoining neighborhoods by forcing commuter traffic into these neighborhoods. It will also substantially improve safety because the addition of the left turn lane is projected to reduce collisions on Peachtree by 20 percent.”
(Editor’s Note: The Peachtree Heights West position paper on the restriping of Peachtree Road was significantly edited to limit the length of the above article.)