Downtown Atlanta traffic: Baker Street conversion part of sweeping proposal to reshape mobility
By David Pendered
A significant vote on part of the sweeping proposal to “revolutionize the way we move through Downtown Atlanta” into 2030 is on the agenda Monday, and the Atlanta City Council is slated to approve this step in a plan fostered by the group of influential business leaders, Central Atlanta Progress.
The proposal is to convert a half-mile of Baker Street from a one-way street to a two-way street. The conversion, priced at $2.7 million, would affect the section of road that runs east-west between Centennial Olympic Park and Piedmont Avenue. It’s cited in the city’s comprehensive Connect Atlanta Plan, according to the legislation.
This proposed conversion is part of CAP’s plan to reorganize the movement of vehicles and pedestrians in the city’s central business district. In addition to other proposals, the plan calls for converting a total of 6.7 miles of Downtown streets from one-way to two-way roads, including the 0.57 segment of Baker Street to be considered Monday.
The transportation plan has notable backers.
The Downtown Atlanta Transportation Plan was sponsored by CAP and its affiliate, the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, which is funded by commercial property owners; Atlanta Regional Commission; and Georgia Department of Transportation. The plan was released in May 2018.
The plan envisions some eye-popping growth projections to establish its call to retool movement in an area that covers 3.6 square miles. The boundaries are North Avenue, Boulevard, I-20 and Northside Drive.
An expected boom of residential construction is forecast, along with an increase in the number of Downtown residents that’s noted as an “aggressive” trajectory:
- 2017 – 13,430 units;
- 2022 – 19,464 units;
- 2030 – 32,744 units;
- Increase – 144 percent.
- 2016 – 26,850;
- 2021 – 31,012;
- 2031 – 38,754;
- Increase – 44 percent.
The report notes that employment in the central business district isn’t expected to grow as dramatically as the population. Nevertheless, the report observes, “employment will continue to be a major driver in the viability of Downtown….”
The proposal to convert Baker Street to two-ways has generated considerable discussion among interested parties – affected hotels and businesses, PEDS, residents, for-hire drivers. The level of debate prompted the council’s Transportation Committee to consider the plan at two separate meetings.
Ultimately, the plan won unanimous approval at the committee’s June 26 meeting. It’s listed in the stack of legislation the council is slated to approve en masse at its Monday meeting. The council has the ability to remove it from the consent agenda and vote on it separately.
Details of the project cited in CAP’s 2018 Transportation Plan include:
- Estimated cost: $1.9 million (lower than the current projection of $2.6 million);
- Source of funds: An unspecified mix of Atlanta’s transportation sales tax; a low-interest loan from the state, via a competitive loan from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which is administered by the State Road and Tollway Authority; and property taxes collected though the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.
- Future projects related to this one: PATH trail to Baker Street from Highland Avenue, the name Baker Street assumes east of Piedmont Avenue; turn the sidewalk along Baker Street into wider side path that will accommodate a potential route for the Atlanta streetcar; Route for Atlanta streetcar, possibly in a dedicated lane, from Downtown to Georgia Tech (now under environmental review), with related intersection improvements.