Tech’s study of Memorial Drive produces a number of solutions

By David Pendered

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the eastern boundary of the framework study.

Memorial Drive has the potential to become a visually interesting and vibrant corridor along its section from Oakland Cemetery east to the Atlanta city limit, at Candler Road in DeKalb County.

This elongated round about could ease dangers at an irregular intersection along Memorial Drive, according to a report by Georgia Tech students. Credit: Georgia Tech

The elongated round about portrayed in the lower image could ease dangers at an irregular intersection along Memorial Drive, according to a report by Georgia Tech students. Credit: Georgia Tech

At least, that’s the opinion of a group of Georgia Tech students who have spent their fall semester analyzing Memorial Drive. On Wednesday, they unveiled a report they and their professor think is so well developed that parts of it are ready to be implemented.

Students crafted their report with the details typical of reports created with funding from ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative.

Consequently, the report is in shape to be considered for adoption into Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan, and by the Atlanta Regional Commission as a precursor to applying for implementation funding to redevelop the urban corridor, according to Mike Dobbins, the Georgia Tech professor of practice overseeing the student work.

For example, the students have come up with an intriguing solution to a problem that exists at the intersection of Memorial Drive and a cross-street whose two ends don’t line up on their respective sides of Memorial Drive.

The traditional solution would be to align the two roads, Memorial Terrace and Whitefoord Avenue. That would entail purchasing one or more buildings and demolishing them, and paving over the former structures.

The students propose to install an elongated round about. The “oval about” would create a connection of the cross streets, while improving traffic flow along Memorial Drive. Rather than paying professional consultants to come up with a similar plan, the city and state could move fairly quickly on the students’ idea.

At least, that’s Dobbins’ opinion. And he says the “oval about” is just one example in a report that’s filled with workable solutions to problems that have seemed intractable.

This map shows the stretch of Memorial Drive for which Georgia Tech students have devised a framework plan to help guide development. Credit: Mike Dobbins

This map shows the stretch of Memorial Drive for which Georgia Tech students have devised a framework plan to help guide development. Credit: Mike Dobbins

Safety has long been one of those intractable problems along Memorial Drive.

At two meetings held this autumn, a common topic of casual conversation was a wreck, or near wreck, involving a vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist. The story shared by area resident Doug Williams on the project’s Facebook page is typical. Williams wrote on Nov. 20:

  • “Almost taken out on Memorial thanks to idiot in the suicide lane. I was trying to turn left into my driveway from the single East bound lane. Just as I began my turn a blue Volvo wagon sped past going the wrong direction in the suicide lane. I barely pulled back in time, before my toddler son and I became another sad story about the danger of these lanes.”

In addition, this section of Memorial Drive could be improved with plantings, safe places for pedestrians and bicyclists, and a lower speed limit that the students think would actually reduce travel time. The result would be an attractive node in an urban corridor that could be similar to Cheshire Bridge Road in its mix of land uses that abut leafy neighborhoods.

“We want to make sure the corridors we travel the most are pleasant places to be,” Dobbins said.

Roadway design is an important part of the students’ report, but it is just a part.

Home construction appears to be occurring at a steady pace in the Memorial Drive corridor. This unit is located a short distance from Memorial Drive, on Hosea Williams Drive. File/Credit: David Pendered

Home construction appears to be occurring at a steady pace in the Memorial Drive corridor. This unit is located a short distance from Memorial Drive, on Hosea Williams Drive. File/Credit: David Pendered

The overarching purpose of the project is evident in its name: Imagine Memorial.

According to Dobbins, the four themes of the report and an example of each include:

Travel

  • “Aiming for major safety and access improvements through consistent treatment of the travel way.

Connectivity

  • “Providing safer, pleasanter slower traffic routes for bikes and pedestrians paralleling and crossing the corridor and connecting neighborhood activity centers.

Development

  • “Identifying private and agency development activity currently underway, proposed for the near term, and anticipated in the future with proposals geared toward reinforcing urban design values for the corridor as a whole.

Implementation

  • “Identifying approximate costs and timelines of development in the works, projecting estimates for proposed work, and identifying organizational and funding resources necessary to carry the work forward.”

The study is a joint effort by Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, and Atlanta Councilperson Natalyn Archibong. Archibong provided about $13,000 for the project from her council account, and convinced Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration to provide an additional $7,500.

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.

6 replies
  1. Equitable says:

    We need to move on Memorial before too much more gets built so we’re sure to have the opportunity to do it right. Great job Tech Planning students! Now maybe some of you can work for pay for the City and/or progressive developers (do they exist?) and get these ideas implemented.Report

    Reply
  2. Jay says:

    The study actually covers the area between Oakland Cemetery and Candler Road. The DeKalb County line is at Moreland Avenue. Perhaps you meant Atlanta City Limits?Report

    Reply
  3. urban gardener says:

    The City and Georgia DOT are at absolute complete odds over implementation of street scape requirements and vehicular access. This is all pie in the sky until resolution is found with GDOT. That this study didn’t include GDOT t the table for their direct oversight of a State Highway to begin with is just stupifying.Report

    Reply
  4. DEKALBCOUNTYSUCKS says:

    Has anyone taken the time and driven down Memorial… starting from
    Moreland to Candler? The entire road has overgrowth that canopies from
    one side of the street to the other. I’m not talking about a little bit
    of overgrowth that can be taken down with a hand saw… I’m talking
    about years upon years of neglect that HAS to be dealt with almost
    immediately. It’s boarder line absurd that no one, including Dekalb
    County Public Works has addressed this for years. There are Oak Trees
    that have branches, that probably weigh more than a ton, that are
    stretching halfway across a F&$king FOUR LANE HIGHWAY.

    Is this safe? NO. It’s not. It’s funny to me that the leadership in Dekalb County can’t do a [email protected] thing
    right when it comes to public works or budgeting. They can’t even keep
    teachers from cheating on tests or keeping the CEO out of JAIL.Every day
    you read the news paper or see on the news about some asshat in Dekalb
    county leadership that is caught cheating someone out of money or lying
    under oath or benefiting from a family business who’s ripping money off
    of the tax payers.

    Thank Dog it was Georgia Tech
    students helping out with this assessment because NO ONE in Dekalb
    County government should be planning, designing or directing anything
    that requires a reasonable measure of experience or accountability.
    Dekalb County is like Congress… it is a toilet that needs to be
    flushed.
    Fix the [email protected] trees before you do anything you f’ing retards.Report

    Reply

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