Atlanta advances plan to retool MLK into complete street, with sidewalk, bike lane, linear park

By David Pendered

Atlanta is moving forward with plans to create a pleasant place to walk and cycle along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, all the way from the future Falcons stadium to Fulton Industrial Boulevard. A new linear park is to be built.

MLK complete streets

The narrow sidewalk along Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive is to be replaced with a 12-foot-wide sidewalk, separated from vehicles by a 6-foot-wide buffer that is to have trees, lamps, and benches. Credit: David Pendered

The 7.2-mile stretch of roadway is the latest of the city’s efforts to retool heavily used corridors into complete streets. The notion is that streets are not complete until they serve pedestrians and cyclists and transit, as well as automobiles and trucks.

Atlanta also is converting a portion of Ponce de Leon Avenue into a complete street.

The total cost for the MLK conversion is budgeted at $60.2 million. The price includes a linear park to be built on the north side of MLK, between Peyton Place and Lynhurst Drive.

The schedule calls for construction to begin in September 2017 and be complete in September 2019. Design and engineering is underway.

Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm, voted May 28 to provide a total of $2.7 million through funds collected in two tax allocation districts – Howell MLK TAD, and Westside TAD.

Other funding sources include an anticipated federal TIGER grant; PATH Foundation; Georgia Department of Transportation; city general funds; and implementation grants from the Livable Centers Initiative, sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Here’s how Invest Atlanta describes the overall project in a fact sheet:

MLK corridor improvements

Atlanta intends to improve the MLK corridor from Northside Drive to Fulton Industrial Boulevard, a distance of 7.2 miles. Credit: Invest Atlanta

“The entire project includes improvements along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from Northside Drive to Fulton Industrial Boulevard (7.2 miles). It will reconfigure the roadway to provide a complete street allowing for multi-modal transportation options, green infrastructure and streetscapes. It will also include a linear park along the north side of the road from Peyton Place to Lynhurst Drive, landscaping and pedestrian bridge at the I-285 interchange, and lighting and aesthetic improvements at both I-20 bridge underpasses.

“The purpose of the MLK Jr. Drive Improvements project that began in 2014 was to develop a single strategy to address the transportation needs of the community and corridor uses, improve aesthetics, and stimulate the revitalization of the corridor and surrounding communities. This strategy includes both short-and long range corridor projects that aim to:

  • “Provide mobility throughout the entire corridor including accommodating regional trips without degrading local trip making;
  • “Incorporate a full range of multi-modal transportation options, address safety issues, and maximize the use of public transportation;
  • “Recognize and preserve the historic and cultural significance of the corridor;
  • “Be consistent with previous and ongoing planning and project development efforts;
  • “Encourage future development and revitalization in the corridor.”
MLK sidewalks

Atlanta plans a $60.2 million upgrade of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to make it more attractive and safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. Credit: David Pendered

Invest Atlanta approved the use of $1.4 million from the Howell-MLK TAD to help pay for the conversion of almost a mile of MLK. Here’s the description of this part of the project:

“Hollowell-MLK TAD funding will be used for a portion of a linear park, multi-use trail, and streetscape improvements along the north side of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from Peyton Place to Boulder Park Drive, (approx. 5000 linear feet). The streetscape improvements will include: a 12-foot wide sidewalk with 6-foot buffer strip, street and pedestrian lighting, green infrastructure, street furniture, and landscaping.”

Invest Atlanta approved the use of $1.3 million from the Westside TAD to help pay for the conversion of about 3,000 feet of the corridor. Here’s the description of this part of the project:

“Westside TAD funding will be used for beautification and streetscape improvements along the north side of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive from Northside Drive to James P. Brawley in the Westside TAD boundary (approximately 3,000 linear feet). The streetscape improvements will include: a 12-foot wide sidewalk with 6-foot buffer strip, street and pedestrian lighting, green infrastructure, street furniture, and landscaping.”

Funding sources, MLK

The $60.2 million project to improve Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive is to be funded by six entities. Credit: Invest Atlanta, David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

15 replies
  1. grngrl says:

    Would have been even better if that hadn’t just severed MLK from downtown by building a stadium on top of it and closing the road.Report

    Reply
  2. dwpendered says:

    jaystar404 Hello, Atlanta appears to have commitments for half the funding. The outlier is the federal TIGER grant. Competition likely will be fierce. The U.S. DOT announced April 3 that $500 million is available for the entire country. The city seeks $30 million and the application deadline was June 5. Best regards, DavidReport

    Reply
  3. letmesaythis says:

    The West side is coming…it will take 20+ years for smart gentrification to be observed…but projects like improved sidewalks, bike lanes add to quality of life and property values.
    The next two decades belong to the west side….now is the time to buy a house for and watch your investment mature.Report

    Reply
  4. Rayola says:

    If MLK does reopen heading East, it should be converted back to two-way traffice like it used to be.  Removes all of the parking from the street and it will work.  It would enable traffice to enter I-85/75 North right behind the Georgia State Capitol.Report

    Reply
  5. Chris Koch says:

    Please remember that MLK goes east to Oakland Cemetery as well. I agree that when it is reconnected at the stadium it should be a 2-way street to the Downtown Connector. As the city’s grand boulevard in the making it should be improved both east and west.Report

    Reply
  6. Jeff Delp says:

    Kahlil English. This is why there is a group of us working on making university Ave/McDonough blvd a complete street. It actually goes both east AND westReport

    Reply
  7. Ben Burgess says:

    Thanks. I saw that. Also read the Imagine Memorial proposal. I like most of the improvements proposed but as of now, I don’t think “complete streets” are in the plan.Report

    Reply

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