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.
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.
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.
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:
- “Aiming for major safety and access improvements through consistent treatment of the travel way.
- “Providing safer, pleasanter slower traffic routes for bikes and pedestrians paralleling and crossing the corridor and connecting neighborhood activity centers.
- “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.
- “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.