Stunt driving spree spurs transportation infrastructure improvementsTemporary barriers cut part of Edgewood Avenue into just two lanes. (Credit: Sean Keenan)
By Sean Keenan
If there’s some silver lining to the rash of reckless driving around Atlanta, it’s that city transportation officials have leapt to action to make streets safer and less conducive to car stunts.
Last month, City of Atlanta transportation commissioner Josh Rowan told SaportaReport that the city’s automobile-focused design provides too many opportunities for motorists to congregate and perform dangerous maneuvers, such as burnouts, donuts and drag races.
In response, Rowan had crews install temporary barriers in problem areas, such as Sweet Auburn’s Edgewood Avenue and the Castleberry Hill intersection of Peters and Walker streets.
“It was our attempt to provide immediate support for the Atlanta Police Department,” Rowan said in an interview Wednesday, noting that the traffic-calming measures have lightened the load for officers who would otherwise have to pay more attention to places where people go to burn rubber.
In the month since the first barriers appeared on Edgewood Avenue, on the neighborhood’s popular bar strip, city transportation and planning leaders have learned a lot and made plans to make permanent infrastructure upgrades around town, Rowan said.
The plastic, water-filled barriers on Edgewood Avenue have been replaced with 4,000-pound concrete ones — “Our placement was pretty good, but the partiers found a way to drain them,” the commissioner said — and now, planning department officials are looking into how the street could be restriped without the center turn lane.
But reworking the street formats hasn’t totally stomped out the trend of stunt-style driving, it seems; when Sweet Auburn and Castleberry Hill became known for their party-subduing barriers, the racers and performers headed elsewhere, such as Buckhead and even Cobb County, Rowan said, but the city is purchasing more barriers to scatter wherever dangerous problems arise, he added.
In addition to the physical deterrents, the Atlanta City Council last week passed legislation that could penalize people for even bearing witness to street racing and unsanctioned car meets.
If a bystander is caught at one of such parties or recording the stunts, they could be fined at least $1,000 or go to jail for up to six months.
The transportation department is also in talks with APD leaders about installing cameras around town with license plate readers to help catch motorists breaking the law.
(Header image, via Sean Keenan: These barriers on Edgewood Avenue have been replaced with concrete ones.)