Editor’s note: When the Georgia Department of Transportation published a five-minute flyover video in October that detailed a proposed remake of Northside Drive, it did little to curry favor with alternate transportation proponents and general urbanists of Atlanta.
A student governing body at Georgia Tech, it turns out, was among them.
GDOT’s plans depict a roughly five-mile stretch of Northside Drive, between Interstate 20 and I-75, a popular north-south commuter corridor. The video shows a widened Northside Drive with medians installed in places, wider sidewalks for pedestrians, and some revised intersections—but no infrastructure for protected bike lanes or alternate transportation such as Bus Rapid Transit in the street.
Much of Northside Drive would remain a six-lane, standard vehicle thoroughfare, per the video. And that, of course, is pretty much Georgia Tech’s backyard.
Members of Tech’s Student Planning Association, within the School of City and Regional Planning, reached out to Urbanize Atlanta this week with the following letter that helps explain their concerns. “We see ourselves,” they said via email, “as stakeholders in this [GDOT] project.”
Here at Georgia Tech’s Student Planning Association within the School of City and Regional Planning, we have been closely following GDOT’s plans for the Northside Drive Corridor.
So far, we believe the direction GDOT is taking in their redesign for this important corridor falls short of their stated values of innovation, safety, sustainability, and mobility.
The latest iteration of their plans for this corridor released on October 18th yielded many contentious comments from urban-minded individuals in the Atlanta area. Prioritizing the corridor for freight trucks [traveling] Northside Drive between Interstate 20 and I-75 comes at the expense of those living and moving within the Northside corridor, especially those who choose modes other than automobiles.
We wish to call attention to how GDOT has handled their directive of “Operational Improvements” of the Northside Corridor. For example, in a response to a public comment requesting a pedestrian crossing at 8th Street, GDOT responded, “A metered pedestrian crossing would stop traffic outside of the signalized intersections, which would conflict with the purpose of the project by delaying operations.”
This implies that pedestrian safety and connectivity are in opposition to their operational goals for the corridor. Their public response shows the priorities GDOT is bringing to this project: Maximize safety (for cars) and mobility (for cars) in order to achieve their “Operational Improvements.”
GDOT’s direction and massive use of public funds do not align with the Atlanta Transportation Plan’s vision to, “envision an Atlanta that is less dependent on cars… by prioritizing people, respecting the form of the city, investing in areas of growth, managing financial incentives, and lessening the frustrations people have moving about.” The direction GDOT is taking with this corridor misses these goals by maintaining Northside Drive as a mainly six-lane urban arterial, omitting north-to-south bike infrastructure, omitting plans for Bus Rapid Transit, and adding suburban-style pedestrian crossings.
We would like to highlight the work done regarding the Northside Drive Corridor by a Georgia Tech Planning Studio back in 2012. Their aspirations echo many of our understandings about what the corridor could be, who it all could serve, and why we should not be content with the status quo.
We call on the decision-makers for this project to reframe their directive of “Operational Improvements” away from traffic flow. We encourage them to reimagine Northside Drive, as the Planning Studio wrote in their executive summary in 2012: “Imagine… dissolving the east-west divide that for decades has walled off the low and mid-wealth neighborhoods to the west from the robust downtown and Midtown centers to the east, physically, economically, and socially.”
Student Planning Association
Georgia Institute of Technology
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