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Columns Mark Lannaman

Atlanta City Council moves to approve downtown street resurfacing

By Mark Lannaman

The Atlanta City Council approved Resolution 22-R-4417 authorizing $6.2 million to repave streets in Downtown Atlanta, but not before an amendment was added to take advantage of the opportunity to make streets safer.

At the city council meeting, Councilmember Dozier expressed a desire to not just redo the streets, but to take advantage of the unique opportunity to make streets safer for pedestrians and bicycle riders. 

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically transform many of these streets in a direction of providing safety improvements for pedestrians and for cyclists,” said Councilmember Dozier, whose District 4 contains all the roads proposed to be resurfaced.

The resolution came out of committee favorable on condition, and on Monday, Oct. 17 the condition had been met at the city council meeting. The approval came after a proposed amendment and discussion from Councilmember Dozier.

He shared with the city council during the meeting a personal anecdote of why safety must be a top priority in restructuring Atlanta streets.

“I myself have been a victim of road violence; as a cyclist, I’ve been hit by a car and had to go to Grady, and I continue to bike to this day with my two year old across the city. I want to make sure that we build a culture that protects all Atlantans, not just motorists but also cyclists and also pedestrians,” said Councilmember Dozier. 

Councilmember Dozier also emphasized the need for transparency in funds. 

“I’ve had a number of conversations with the administration, with the Department of Transportation, with constituents, with advocacy groups around the need to ensure that transparency is at the forefront of the work that we’re doing today,” Councilmember Dozier said.

His amendment added a clause that reflected both transparency and safer streets for cyclists and pedestrians. The clause called for ‘bicycle and pedestrian improvement’ to be implemented with partial funding from General Fund Reserves of $1.5 million, according to the official resolution document.

Councilmember Dozier is not alone in the desire to make the streets more pedestrian-friendly. A local sustainable transportation advocacy group, Propel ATL, Propel ATL, released an email the morning city council was to vote on the proposal calling for the council to either downvote the proposal as is or amend it to include measures for bikers and pedestrians. 

Rebecca Serna, executive director of Propel ATL, said the group called on such action for the same reasons Councilmember Dozier did — because it’s necessary.

“[Downtown Atlanta] has all these massive one-way streets full of fast car traffic and it’s just not an inviting place for people,” Serna said. “We have to have a built environment – including our streets, which are our largest public space — that really prioritizes people first. So [Propel ATL] felt like resurfacing these streets without trying to [make streets safer] would be a missed opportunity.” 

Serna said she’s satisfied with the amendment, but remains cautiously optimistic of implementing the project.

“I think we’re going to have to keep a close eye on the projects as they move forward because if the city does still plan to resurface these streets on a very accelerated timeline, it’s going to be a sprint to the finish to incorporate the bicycle and pedestrian and transit accessibility improvements,” Serna said.

Serna also expressed gratitude for the transparency aspect, especially since funds were originally to be pulled from a 2015 Renew Atlanta fund that hadn’t been spent on any projects and eventually repaid through the 2022 TSPLOT. The eight streets named in the resolution were not all included in the original 2022 TSPLOT list, and thus raised concerns about using TSPLOT funds for projects not originally included.

Serna shared she believes Atlanta doesn’t lack in planning, but rather in implementing plans. She hopes more accessible design and engineering can get to projects sooner so that projects don’t move forward without these improvements. 

“I’d like to emphasize if the projects move forward without the safety improvements, that is a policy decision — it is not [out of our control],” Serna said.

Serna concluded by saying that Atlanta has steps to take towards becoming safer for all forms of transit — starting with the vein of Atlanta itself, Peachtree Street.

“Really, if we can’t make Peachtree Street one that’s welcoming, inviting, safe and accessible for people outside of cars, then we’re not going to be able to do it in the rest of the city,” Serna said.

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