'Peachtree Boulevard' Project Makes Walking Easy
- 'Peachtree Boulevard' Project Makes Walking Easy
POSTED: 6:30 pm EDT October 16, 2007
UPDATED: 6:34 pm EDT October 16, 2007
ATLANTA -- Imagine walking from Piedmont Road along Peachtree Street to
Lenox Square. Unthinkable for all but the most hardy walkers.
For years, this most expensive half mile of real estate in Georgia has
prepared to gamble on a new strategy for beating traffic. Buckhead leaders
are calling the half mile, twenty million dollar project "Peachtree
Boulevard." It runs from just south of Piedmont to the Marta station on
Peachtree Road. They're wagering that nice sidewalks, benches and trees may
entice drivers from their cars. State and Atlanta tax money came up with
three fourths of the improvements here, and local property owners taxed
themselves 5 million dollars to build the new street scape.
Tuesday afternoon, pedestrians saw for themselves if the gamble was worth
Atlanta taxpayers paid a million dollars, state and federal taxpayers
another $14 million and the property owners themselves poneyed up the
rest -- over $5 million.
New oak trees and buffered median give walkers a safe respite halfway across
Peachtree Road. Drivers have fewer crazy left turns to wait out. And Mayor
Franklin herself led the way opening a bicycle lane with a snip of some
In the past, congestion fighting has meant more high speed multi lane
highways. But when Georgia 400 came through 14 years ago, traffic on
Peachtgree Road almost doubled, overnight. Property owners had a few
choices: live with the congestion, try adding a lane to Peachtree, or find a
The choice was hard fought. Consultants and real estate developers convinced
city, state and neighborhood traffic planners to cough up the plans to
involve everyone in giving up money and roadway for foot and bike traffic.
Today, eleven foot sidewalks, 80 specially designed benches, a five foot
wide bike lane, and a fancy Marta entrance gleam in the October sun.
Drivers get a better deal than before, too. Traffic moves more smoothly
because cross-cutting, left turning drivers are thwarted by the median.
U-turns at intersections allow more calm movements across the street. Says
Business Improvement District leader Scottie Green. "We have widened the
road to accomodate bicycles, extra turn lanes, a median, pedestrian refuge
and cut back on turning accidents."
David Allman, developer of several projects on Peachtree Road says the area
is ripe to be a model for other small towns burdened with too mcuh traffic.
He likes what he sees here as people come to visit and experience places
that have character.
And the once-least likely celebrant? That's Sally Silver. She long opposed
plans for Buckhead, especially the Georgia 400 idea. She was the last
protester standing when that massive highway project opened. Now she's
beaming at the ribbon cutting.
"It's easier to work with folks at getting the best outcome than to just
stamp your foot and say no," she admits.
Of course, some Buckhead travellers don't think it's perfect. Carrie Podber,
from Pharr Road, says the trees are nice but she'd rather have another lane
of asphalt. She says "I'm more about efficiency than looking pretty. I think
it could have been another lane there." But other coffee sippers at Caribou
Coffee disagree. A midtown resident, in Buckhead for a business meeting,
wonders what misery would be happening if Buckhead had not planned for this
"If we don't gamble, what's the alternative? Are we just going to be
congested all the time? At twelve and at five like in buckhead with the
gridlock we currently have?" Gary Carter, Geographics Company.
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