Published on October 30th, 2015 |4
415, with diverse opinions, attend GDOT’s Peachtree Rd. input meeting
Peachtree Road from I-85 north to Pharr Road—the largest crowd GDOT has had at such a meeting.
Even before the 5 p.m. start of the meeting, more than 100 residents filled the ante room outside of the main Callaway Hall at the Shepherd Center Oct. 29 voicing their sharply divided opinions on GDOT’s plans—mainly on the addition of bike lanes from Peachtree Battle south to I-85.
GDOT officials propose relining the six-lane road to create a central left turn lane from Deering to Pharr roads. From Deering north to Peachtree Battle Avenue, the road would contain the left turn lane, bike lanes and four through lanes, two northbound and two southbound.
From Peachtree Battle to Pharr, the road would contain the left turn lane and five through lanes, two northbound and three southbound. The section from Peachtree Battle to Pharr would not include bike lanes.
That leaves another section of Peachtree through the Village area—from Pharr Road north to Shadowlawn Avenue—that is being developed and paid for by the Buckhead Community Improvement District. The CID also had a presence at the meeting with a few information boards.
Not having recently seen or heard any specifics about how the BCID plans to transform that section of Peachtree, BuckheadView asked the CID’s Director of Transportation & Development Brian McHugh, what those plans are.
McHugh told BuckheadView there had been no formal decision yet on how that section of Peachtree would be restriped, but that it likely would
follow GDOT’s plans for Peachtree from Pharr south to Peachtree Battle Avenue where possible.
He added that there are a couple of places where the six-lane configuration—with a center turn lane an two thru lanes northbound and three thru lanes southbound likely will not work—one being at the intersection with Paces Ferry Road.
However, a press release sent out Friday morning by the BCID reported: “For the Pharr Road to W. Shadowlawn Avenue section….The proposed changes to the configuration will be six lanes (as it is today), but with a two-way center left-turn lane, three lanes southbound and two lanes northbound.”
The press release explained: “The purpose is to remove turning vehicles from the innermost travel lanes and to provide protected left-turn opportunities with left turn arrow traffic signals at major intersections for the length of the project.”
BCID Executive Director Jim Durrett was quoted in the press release saying: “”Change is hard, and we understand that communication is the key. We support the GDOT process to present the proposed changes, obtain commentary, weigh the issues and arrive at a final recommendation with its stakeholders,” referring to the Thursday evening meeting.
Some observers at the meeting commented that there was a difference in the opinions of the older crowd that attended the meeting early and the
younger crowd—millenials and some wearing biking helmets and Bike Coalition pins who showed up later.
The older crowd seemed to predominantly object to the addition of bike lanes on any part of Peachtree Road, where the younger crowd that came a little later was more heavily in favor of bike lanes. Some of those at the meeting apparently neither lived nor worked in Buckhead.
GDOT officials say the project is intended to make travel on Peachtree safer. A handout at the public meeting reported that more than 800 collisions occurred from 2009 to 2013 in the area being considered for restriping. During that period, there were 11 crashes involving bicyclist and 42 involving pedestrians, the handout said.
Most of the residents BuckheadView at the meeting said they favored the center two-way left-turn lanes, but they questioned the addition of bike lanes and whether they would be safe for bicyclists.
Alana Shepherd, who founded the Shepherd Center for rehabilitative treatment, told someone at the meeting that the center treats at least 20 bicyclists a year who are victims of accidents—mostly involving vehicles. It was said that her son, James Shepherd, shepherded some those attending to the meeting.
GDOT had a presentation comparing crash data between Peachtree and the statewide average for similar roads from 2009 to 2013. That presentation found Peachtree experienced 439 crashes per 100 million miles driven compared to a statewide average of 425.
The Peachtree Road’s injury-causing crashes numbered 156 per 100 million miles to the state’s 165. Crashes resulting in fatalities were slightly better
than the state average at 1.07 per 100 million miles to the state’s 1.23.
A GDOT representative at the meeting said the proposed lane changes came about as the result of engineering simulations designed to help avoid rear-end collisions and sideswipes, which have been common on the corridor. Creating a center left-turn lane, she said, was the best way to avoid those types of accidents.
“There’s been a lot of questions about bike lanes, and those are sort of just a secondary bonus to some and not to others,” a GDOT representative told BuckheadView.
One question BuckheadView asked of GDOT State Engineer Andrew Heath, who organized and was in charge of the Thursday meeting, was if GDOT had studied what, if any affect, the proposed bike lanes could have on ambulances and other traffic turning in and out of the two hospitals in the corridor, the Shepherd Center and Piedmont Hospital.
He said GDOT had not specifically studied that, but that they had run extensive studies of the traffic through that part of the corridor and were actually showing real-time big-screen presentations of traffic models from that part of the corridor at the meeting.
Dist. 8 Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, who represents the neighborhoods on the west side of Peachtree Road, told BuckheadView, “What GDOT is showing here tonight is very superficial.” She said she hoped a lot of people will fill out comment sheets.
Post 2 At-large City Councilwoman Mary Norwood said she believes the bike lanes on the south end of the corridor are a safety hazard. She proposed using that space rather for a pedestrian greenway, which could also be used by cyclists.
Barbra Guillaume, who live in a high rise along Peachtree north of Peachtree Battle Avenue wants more attention paid to the needs of walkers.
Pointing out there are many, many more walkers than bike riders along Peachtree, she said more should be done to improve the sidewalks and make a safer walking experience. She said she walks many miles a week along Peachtree Road.
Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook chatted with numerous residents at the Thursday meeting and said his office has been flooded with emails about the GDOT proposal, as have the offices of other members of City Council. He pointed out this is not a city project, it’s GDOT’s.
Shook said the unfortunate thing about this is “it has turned into a sort of referendum on bike lanes and bicyclists.” He indicated the city needs to study how to create alternative safe lanes for bikers to move about the city. He didn’t seem to support Peachtree Road as being that alternative.
That was the sentiment of Roger Moister and Tony Casadonte, both of whom live in the Collier Hills North neighborhood on the west side of
Peachtree Road in south Buckhead.
“Bike lanes on Peachtree Road just is not a good idea,” Moister told BuckheadView. Furthermore, he said the idea of having the bike lanes on Peachtree feed off and onto the BeltLine path in Buckhead is a bad idea.
“No one at GDOT even knows where the BeltLine path with cross Peachtree Road,” Moister said. “Furthermore, bike lanes on Peachtree should not facilitate fast riding bikers onto the BeltLine where new grandfathers like me are walking with grandchildren in carriages.”
Casadonte’s concern was the traffic congestion that already exists on Peachtree Road around the hospitals and the intersection with Collier Road. “They need to concentrate on redoing that intersection of Peachtree and Collier roads. Piedmont Hospital is the gorilla in the room on that one.”
Aside from commenting at the Thursday meeting, whole neighborhoods of residents have taken positions on the GDOT plan. Most that have sent their positions to BuckheadView have supported the GDOT plans for north of Peachtree Battle Avenue to Pharr Road, but have opposed the concept of bike lanes south of Peachtree Battle to I-85.
Two of those neighborhoods are Peachtree Heights West and North Buckhead, which BuckheadView wrote about in a previous article. (See that article here.)
In addition, North Buckhead Civic Association President Gordon Certain sent a letter to GDOT’s engineer Heath (which can be read by clicking here) in which he argued that the GDOT plan was premature since no alternative routings for bike traffic had been considered by GDOT’s planners and that safer routes for bike traffic are known to be planned as part of the city’s Connect Atlanta plan.
On the other hand, Tom Gordon, who is a resident of the Ardmore Park neighborhood, said his neighborhood supports bike lanes on Peachtree in that south Buckhead area that includes around Collier Road. His neighborhood borders Collier Road just west of Peachtree Road.
Gordon pointed out that his neighborhood—along with Collier Hills, Collier Hills North, Brookwood and Brookwood Hills—participated in a several year study of that commercial district along Peachtree Road south of Peachtree Creek and the result was a road plan that is almost identical to that being proposed by GDOT for that area.
Gordon said the bike lanes not only slow traffic but provide safer travel for bikers and greater safety for pedestrians by providing a buffer between the vehicle traffic and sidewalks.
The bike lane plan sounded good to Angel Poventud, who said he bikes 20 miles a day when not at his job driving freight trains. He was one of those in attendance sporting a bike helmet while checking out the GDOT’s maps. He wished that the bike lanes would be continued beyond Peachtree Battle to Pharr Road.
And, resident Michael Wilds said the new lines were needed to accommodate the growing number of cyclists and to reduce traffic jams on Peachtree. But, he pointed out that if the new lanes made traffic worse, they could easily be undone. “It’s just a paint job,” he said. “They can just repaint them.”
GDOT plans to take in the input from all of those who filled out comment cards and respond by email before making a decision. “We will use those comments to decide how we will move forward with the project,” the representative told BuckheadView.
GDOT is soliciting comments through Nov. 9.
• A web page is available at www.dot.ga.gov/PS/Public/PublicOutreach
• The email address is PeachtreeProject@dot.ga.gov.
• You can also mail a comment to Ms. Hiral Patel, P.E., Georgia Department of Transportation, 600 West Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30308.