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Old 11-12-2010, 04:16 AM
 
Location: Atlanta
6,458 posts, read 7,285,724 times
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Introduction

I had a crazy idea and it still has some flaws, but the more I think about it the more some parts of the idea start to seem workable and mutually beneficial to residents OTP and ITP. I wanted to run it by you guys to seek input, suggestions, and further ideas. I would prefer it to be positive and hope we can prevent the aggressive nay-saying in a concerted effort to find feasible ideas. Also, bare with me, because this post is about "thinking outside the box."

History

Many years ago they had planned to build I-485 through town. Part was a north-south route and part was an east-west route. The north-south route was partially built being GA400 and I-675 (I’m going to mostly ignore this route, because there really aren’t any good options and it would absurdly expensive to tunnel that far). The east-west route was partially built as freedom parkway to the west and Stone Mountain Freeway to the east that dumps onto Scott Blvd that bypasses central Decatur. (My idea concentrates on the latter).

I would also like people to take a moment and do two things…. Look google aerial images of the route from Stone Mountain Freeway to Freedom Parkway (Atlanta, ga - Google Maps) to keep in mind and look at the original map of the I-485 concept (Interstate 485).

**Note: In no way do I think we should revive any attempt to build another freeway in this corridor. That is not the purpose I want to discuss, despite that being the original plan several decades ago**

The Problem


However, there is a current existing problem. Stone Mtn. Freeway dumps tons of commuters onto Scott Blvd/Ponce and the corridor is also congested with local traffic as well. I was trying to think of how to mitigate problems for both OTP commuters, and ITP local/commuters and improve life for everyone.

First I want to create 3 alignment unique zones to discuss. The first is the area to the west near the end of the Freedom Parkway extension at Moreland Ave eastward, the central part that focuses on Ponce De Leon that for neighborhood character and historical reasons I don’t feel can be touched one bit, and the eastern part that is primarily just Scott Blvd. Each of these zones are unique in character and have different obstacles to overcome and different stakeholders in those locales.

1: Eastern zone


My first idea was for the eastern zone, Scott Blvd. How can we make things better for locals, OTP commuters, and not build a freeway or widen the road?

The character of the road is narrow lanes, poor drainage, and lots of smaller older homes with driveways directly onto the road. Another thought I had is Atlanta often lacks unique true nice, well landscaped wide boulevards. We largely built our community on hilly country roads on narrow corridors.

There are about 50-100 houses that are directly on Scott Blvd. Rather than put the money into building an absurdly expensive freeway that would kill land values, I was thinking we should buy those houses and use them for right way to make grand southern boulevard, however not widen the # number of lanes on the road.

With the extra space construct a nice landscaped median, nice well landscaped sides of the road be built as buffers for the neighborhoods on Scott Blvd (perhaps in a similar, but smaller character as that of Ponce de Leon further west), and turn lanes could be built at key intersections. The speed limit should be kept lower around 35-40.
The side landscaped buffers could include multi-use paths for pedestrians and cyclists. (and perhaps a long term vision for a revival of an Atlanta-Decatur area streetcar line).
Also, most residential streets off of Scott Blvd would be prevented from turning left onto Scott Blvd, however many of them are already connected to each other and to other urban arterials/collectors nearby. A few new neighborhood-street-connectors could be built to facilitate residential-neighborhood traffic to better access points on Scott Blvd or neighboring streets.

The benefits:
A true Boulevard with a pleasant, beautiful streetscape
Increase in land values along the Scott Boulevard corridor
Increase in roadway capacity: (in that it removes most of the curb cuts along the road and places most cars turning off the road into dedicated turn lanes.)
A safer roadway
The hope is to keep cars at slow urban arterial speeds, but to keep cars flowing more consistently.

2. Central Zone

Honestly, this is a short, but a high problem area for me. This area where Scott Blvd turns into Ponce has a high degree of character and has lots of history associated with it. No one would want to alter it and it shouldn’t be.

The only feasible/unfeasible options are 1) no change. It stays a choke point. 2) A 4-lane parkway bypasses this portion of Ponce to Scott Blvd, in which such a suitable alignment is tough to find. 3) An expensive, but short 2-lane reversible road tunnel that bypasses this stretch leaving it untouched and 4)mostly no change, but work at reducing curb cuts and rerouting a few side streets to intersect the road at other access points or better access points

--I firmly believe no option should affect the streetscape of this corridor.--

3) Western alignment.

Originally land was purchased to build a freeway and junction in this area. It has since been turned into a park and for this reason it might be my more controversial suggestion.

My idea would be to go ahead and build a narrow 4-lane parkway with a small median going east of Moreland Ave. It would take up part of the park space, but if built furthest north near North Ave. a sizeable portion of the park could preserved (and perhaps more effort to better maintain that space) as could pedestrian/cycle greenways along the parkway be preserved. The road would also clip the north section of the Candler Park Golf Course, which would require the golf course to be reconfigured and possibly a small amount of land purchases further south to make that possible.

From here the alignment could turn north and hit Ponce de Leon, cross Ponce de Leon, go underground into the reversible 2-lane rush hour tunnel, or hit Clifton Rd., which a reconfigured Clifton Rd would provide Emory/CDC a good link to downtown that it does not have now. (Hitting Clifton Rd South of Ponce would be problematic in that the road is narrow and residential in nature)

Also this parkway would not be a freeway. It would have traffic lights and turn lanes at major intersections, but it would not need to have any curb-cuts onto adjacent properties making for a safe, higher capacity 4-lane urban arterial.

The benefits:

It would increase capacity and lower congestion into downtown and lower midtown.
It would free-up capacity on the western part of Ponce de Leon Ave for intown residents and make it easier to build the planed streetcar on Ponce with less traffic (and possibly extend the envisioned streetcar).
It would allow for more room to beautify Ponce de Leon Ave intown (and potentially… dare I say it… remove a lane or two at a few points to beautify the road, add a short median, or expand the pedestrian streetscape on the side of the road. In general make the road look nicer and integrate better with a streetcar.)



I also think there needs to strategies for Dekalb County to re-work north-south urban arterials (Clifton, Clairemont, Briarcliff) but I don’t have any solid ideas for those at this time.


Conclusion


I realize this is somewhat imperfect and is only a start to create ideas, so now I throw this to you guys… I want to find out what some people think, potential alternative ideas, and I really want this to be geared at helping all who use the corridor. I don’t want this to be a suburban…just build a freeway and screw ITP neighborhoods mentality and I don’t want this to be a at all cost don’t change my neighborhood…we can live with the traffic mentality. I also realize this might take time to ponder and most gut-reactions to any idea might not be the most productive ones.

I believe it is important for people take a look at the area on the ground, via map, and via aerial photos. There is plenty of room to improve the corridor for the benefit of all, however it will take some thinking outside the box.

North-South Notes

As far as the north-south corridor…. I can not think of any feasible way to possibly extend GA 400 south, even the tunnel concept has flaws and whether it is built above or below ground I think it will be too expensive and would disrupt the neighborhoods too much.

As for I-675. I do think there is a real opportunity to extend it a short ways north to I-20. The area is undeveloped or lightly developed. I-20 ITP also has excess road capacity and would easier to widen at a few congestion points. If a way was ever found to build north It could utilize the I-20 alignment to connect the two roadways, but I just don’t ever see that happening. (Examine aerial photos there is a perfect corridor for a 4-lane parkway/freeway from 675 to 20 where it curves near Gresham park/Bouldercrest.)

Also, there is a undeveloped/light developed corridor where the Lakewood freeway could be extended to 675. I know most people don’t examine the freight plans, but this could become an excellent freight truck route to bypass 285 and 75 and other intown freeways. The Lakewood freeway could become a parkway that extends west of I-285 to hit the southern end of the Fulton Industrial Blvd industrial district and I-20 west.

Also, unlike the original plans, it would leave the neighborhoods of East Atlanta near Grant Park untouched.


I’m sure I will get an earful and I know it is hard to conceptualize without producing a map drafted on top of an aerial photo or possibly picture of the vision.
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Old 11-12-2010, 08:16 AM
 
Location: Atlanta and St Simons Island, GA
21,044 posts, read 33,036,950 times
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The section of Ponce de Leon that runs through Druid Hills is basically untouchable, because you have the chain of Olmstead parks that have protected historic status. An enormous amount of money has been raised for their restoration, so no one is going to seriously entertain the idea of encroachment.
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Old 11-12-2010, 03:27 PM
 
3,209 posts, read 4,518,676 times
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Good post, even though i'm not sure I'm on board with any of the specific proposals. It's always good to be evaluating all of our options and using this as a sounding board for ideas.

I don't feel like this deserves it's own thread, but here's my "big idea" for what to do along the Freedom Parkway route: create an underpass for the intersection of Boulevard and Freedom Parky.

Here's how it works:

Right now the intersection is the victim of crazy traffic going onto and off of the connector. It's common to have to wait through at least 3 cycles, and there's nowhere near enough turning capacity or turning lane length in any direction. The intersection has basically turned into a motor derby, and repels any human traffic that may make its way through the area.



The solution would be to make an overpass modeled directly on the entrance to Phipps Plaza on Lenox (pictured above; note how the main east-west traffic lanes go under the bridge). Essentially, some of the lanes of Lenox go under an overpass, while the center lane goes on an on/off ramp that has an intersection with the street above. The traffic east and west bound on Freedom Parkway could zoom right under Boulevard, completely separated from pedestrian traffic on Boulveard.

Meanwhile, traffic turning left and right is confined to just one intersection at the street level, so volumes are way down. Traffic going down Boulevard as well as pedestrian traffic can get a ton more priority. Like in the Phipps example, some streetscaping can be done next to Boulevard, making it not seem at all like you're walking over a heavily-used street (the Phipps on takes this a bit overboard perhaps, with 40-60' of streetscaping on either side of the road).

Here is an overhead of the existing intersection:



See how awesome it would be to have some version of the Phipps split overpass replacing this? Not sure anyone really is hurt by this, and as far as public works projects go it shouldn't be that expensive. It would have a massive traffic benefit to the whole area, which is one area many of these improved-streetscape projects are lacking.

As far as feasibility goes, there are some good forces and bad forces. Boulevard is already way up in the air, so the turnnel itself would be really easy. Hooking it up into the connector's on and off ramps is the tricky part. In addition, there's already a bridge at Jackson Street, which would have to be worked around. So there's some tricky engineering there. But imo it would be a huge step towards improving that whole area, which is just a traffic jammed mess for large parts of the day.


With regard to your ideas, I had always given up on extending 400 to the southeast, and just thought they should connect it to Buford Highway if they're going to do anything. Lack of access between Midtown and Buckhead is a real pain.

I'm going to have to sit on your other proposals for a while before making a judgement. The tunnel to Emory would be a hell of a long one.
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Old 11-12-2010, 05:15 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
6,458 posts, read 7,285,724 times
Reputation: 4205
Quote:
Originally Posted by testa50 View Post
Good post, even though i'm not sure I'm on board with any of the specific proposals. It's always good to be evaluating all of our options and using this as a sounding board for ideas.

I don't feel like this deserves it's own thread, but here's my "big idea" for what to do along the Freedom Parkway route: create an underpass for the intersection of Boulevard and Freedom Parky.

Here's how it works:

Right now the intersection is the victim of crazy traffic going onto and off of the connector. It's common to have to wait through at least 3 cycles, and there's nowhere near enough turning capacity or turning lane length in any direction. The intersection has basically turned into a motor derby, and repels any human traffic that may make its way through the area.



The solution would be to make an overpass modeled directly on the entrance to Phipps Plaza on Lenox (pictured above; note how the main east-west traffic lanes go under the bridge). Essentially, some of the lanes of Lenox go under an overpass, while the center lane goes on an on/off ramp that has an intersection with the street above. The traffic east and west bound on Freedom Parkway could zoom right under Boulevard, completely separated from pedestrian traffic on Boulveard.

Meanwhile, traffic turning left and right is confined to just one intersection at the street level, so volumes are way down. Traffic going down Boulevard as well as pedestrian traffic can get a ton more priority. Like in the Phipps example, some streetscaping can be done next to Boulevard, making it not seem at all like you're walking over a heavily-used street (the Phipps on takes this a bit overboard perhaps, with 40-60' of streetscaping on either side of the road).

Here is an overhead of the existing intersection:



See how awesome it would be to have some version of the Phipps split overpass replacing this? Not sure anyone really is hurt by this, and as far as public works projects go it shouldn't be that expensive. It would have a massive traffic benefit to the whole area, which is one area many of these improved-streetscape projects are lacking.

As far as feasibility goes, there are some good forces and bad forces. Boulevard is already way up in the air, so the turnnel itself would be really easy. Hooking it up into the connector's on and off ramps is the tricky part. In addition, there's already a bridge at Jackson Street, which would have to be worked around. So there's some tricky engineering there. But imo it would be a huge step towards improving that whole area, which is just a traffic jammed mess for large parts of the day.


With regard to your ideas, I had always given up on extending 400 to the southeast, and just thought they should connect it to Buford Highway if they're going to do anything. Lack of access between Midtown and Buckhead is a real pain.

I'm going to have to sit on your other proposals for a while before making a judgement. The tunnel to Emory would be a hell of a long one.
Thanks for your comments and insights.

I agree about the Buford highway connector. They talk about re-working the interchange for I-85 south to GA 400 north and vice versa, but I'm amazed the ignore the buford highway connector that dumps so many cars onto Sidney Marcus.

I really feel I need to construct a map of the general ideas I have. The tunnel is primarily intended to bypass the area of Ponce near Olmsted park/railroad bridge for about 1-1.5 miles. (That is what I referred to as the Central zone) I couldn't think of a way of re-working that road or building a new one near by. The western alignment would be an extension of Freedom pkwy, while the eastern would completely re-work/build Scott Blvd.

I like your idea about the intersection. Despite turning that intersection more into a freeway, it would make that intersection much more pedestrian friendly as well as help traffic flow.
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Old 11-13-2010, 08:54 AM
 
Location: Atlanta and St Simons Island, GA
21,044 posts, read 33,036,950 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cwkimbro View Post
From here the alignment could turn north and hit Ponce de Leon, cross Ponce de Leon, go underground into the reversible 2-lane rush hour tunnel, or hit Clifton Rd., which a reconfigured Clifton Rd would provide Emory/CDC a good link to downtown that it does not have now. (Hitting Clifton Rd South of Ponce would be problematic in that the road is narrow and residential in nature)
Clifton Rd. north of Ponce would be even more problematic. In the two-mile stretch of Clifton between Ponce and N. Decatur you are not only fronting one of the city's most exclusive golf clubs but also some of the city's most beautiful and historic homes. The prospect of widening Clifton would render the (often politically well-connected) NIMBYs apoplectic.
As far as Scott Blvd goes, I think the county perceives the dumping of traffic off of Stone Mountain Freeway on to N. Druid Hills Rd to be a more pressing concern than the traffic coming on to Scott Blvd from there; at least it seems to be getting the lion's share of the attention between the two. NDH seems to have become the 'go-to' thoroughfare from Gwinnett commuters heading to work in Midtown and Buckhead. I've attended some of the planning meetings that are working on possible solutions; you might be surprised at how similar some of the proposed solutions are to what you are offering here.
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Old 11-13-2010, 11:20 AM
 
28,186 posts, read 24,748,296 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by testa50 View Post
The solution would be to make an overpass modeled directly on the entrance to Phipps Plaza on Lenox (pictured above; note how the main east-west traffic lanes go under the bridge). Essentially, some of the lanes of Lenox go under an overpass, while the center lane goes on an on/off ramp that has an intersection with the street above. The traffic east and west bound on Freedom Parkway could zoom right under Boulevard, completely separated from pedestrian traffic on Boulveard.
I like that idea!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LovinDecatur View Post
As far as Scott Blvd goes, I think the county perceives the dumping of traffic off of Stone Mountain Freeway on to N. Druid Hills Rd to be a more pressing concern than the traffic coming on to Scott Blvd from there; at least it seems to be getting the lion's share of the attention between the two. NDH seems to have become the 'go-to' thoroughfare from Gwinnett commuters heading to work in Midtown and Buckhead.
Couldn't agree more. NDH is one of the more problematic ITP roads. There just aren't a whole lot of ways to get from Decatur to Midtown/Buckhead.

Not to sound reactionary (I hope), but it seems to me there is a certain value in slowing traffic down as you get closer to dense locations. I realize locals are inconvenienced, too, but I am not sure the concept of whisking commuters in and out of urbanized areas is necessarily the optimal model.
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Old 11-13-2010, 03:04 PM
 
Location: Atlanta and St Simons Island, GA
21,044 posts, read 33,036,950 times
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Originally Posted by arjay57 View Post
Couldn't agree more. NDH is one of the more problematic ITP roads. There just aren't a whole lot of ways to get from Decatur to Midtown/Buckhead.
This has not really been a problem for me. I have taken the following route from Decatur to Midtown, and it never seems to take more than 20 minutes;

W Ponce to Coventry
Coventry to E Clifton
E Clifton to Clifton (turn right)
Clifton to Oxford
Oxford to N Decatur
N Decatur becomes E Rock Springs
For Buckhead: Left off of ERS to Piedmont straight into Buckhead
For Midtown: Fork off of ERS onto Morningside Dr, then onto Piedmont Rd. S.
You're there.
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Old 11-13-2010, 04:07 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
6,458 posts, read 7,285,724 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arjay57 View Post
I like that idea!



Couldn't agree more. NDH is one of the more problematic ITP roads. There just aren't a whole lot of ways to get from Decatur to Midtown/Buckhead.

Not to sound reactionary (I hope), but it seems to me there is a certain value in slowing traffic down as you get closer to dense locations. I realize locals are inconvenienced, too, but I am not sure the concept of whisking commuters in and out of urbanized areas is necessarily the optimal model.
I agree and tried my best to address this, but perhaps not enough. That isn't reactionary. It is a good point.

What I want to see is something that isn't extremely fast, but there is more control to engineer road to be consistent and fewer stops. (Ie. Less cars turning on and off the road, turn lanes at intersections... If the flow becomes more consistent it then becomes easier to time lights)

I'm not too concerned about the difference between 30 mph and 60mph. The corridor is only about 5 miles long.

But the other reason this is important is I feel it we need to balance the needs of through-traffic vs locals. If the road is altered it needs to make the area a better place to live and increase property values rather than drag them down.

Faster speeds also make it hard for pedestrians and cyclist to cross the road.

Albeit, I could be wrong and I am absolutely sure it does have alot of traffic on it, but I usually think of North Druid Hill carrying cars mostly toward Executive Park, Linbergh, and Buckhead.

It seems like the only routes to midtown without alot of maneuvering are Ponce or N. Decatur/Rock Springs to Piedmont. The odd thing about Rock springs is that its more like a neighborhood repaved and painted to be a 2-lane through road, so there isn't much you can do here and I am sure it isn't a place where people like traffic.
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Old 11-13-2010, 05:33 PM
 
12,948 posts, read 21,050,130 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LovinDecatur View Post
This has not really been a problem for me. I have taken the following route from Decatur to Midtown, and it never seems to take more than 20 minutes;

W Ponce to Coventry
Coventry to E Clifton
E Clifton to Clifton (turn right)
Clifton to Oxford
Oxford to N Decatur
N Decatur becomes E Rock Springs
For Buckhead: Left off of ERS to Piedmont straight into Buckhead
For Midtown: Fork off of ERS onto Morningside Dr, then onto Piedmont Rd. S.
You're there.
Yes.

This is the route I always took when lived in Emory/Decatur and the City of Decatur--and when I was coming to these areas from pointes further west.
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Old 11-14-2010, 09:06 AM
 
28,186 posts, read 24,748,296 times
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Originally Posted by aries4118 View Post
Yes.

This is the route I always took when lived in Emory/Decatur and the City of Decatur--and when I was coming to these areas from pointes further west.
Heh. Yeah, you old hands know the back route, and that's the way I go, too. Nonetheless you're mainly traveling residential streets. Nothing wrong with that per se, and it does have the effect of slowing traffic down like I mentioned above.

These are mainly single lane streets, however, and I'm not enough of a traffic engineer to know whether they could handle the heavy multi-lane loads that fill corridors like NDH. I"m inclined to think they'd be stressed to do that.

Also, if you're heading to the Lenox area, you've still got some heavy sledding ahead even when you get to Piedmont.

I didn't mean to imply that there were no routes from Decatur to Buckhead or Midtown. There certainly are and the cognoscenti know them well. But I still think transportation in the northeast part of the city (and by that I mean basically the 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock quadrant) could stand some serious improvements.
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