At the RENEW ATLANTA public meeting on June 28th , the Renew Atlanta team failed to present any substantive safety improvements for the stretch of Monroe between Dutch Valley and 10th Street. Although they proposed a new traffic signal at Westminster Drive, the only proposed improvements south of this new light and just north of the 10th street intersection were “signal improvements.” Since the June 28th meeting, there have been at least three wrecks at Park and Monroe – all involving injuries – and at least one wreck on Monroe between Cresthill and Elmwood where a car went onto the sidewalk and crashed into a house’s retaining wall. “Traffic signal improvements” are clearly not enough to deal with the dangerous conditions on
this stretch of Monroe.
VHCA’s City Planning and Transportation consultants met with Renew Atlanta to review their traffic data and discuss the desperately needed safety improvements for Monroe. During that meeting, they learned that the Road Diet itself would actually function very well in the areas where it would be implemented. (See VHCA’s articles here for information on how road diets work). The result is exactly what road diet supporters have long envisioned for Monroe Drive – a slower and safer roadway that greatly reduces pedestrian and vehicular accidents. The outstanding issue identified by RENEW ATLANTA is that the traffic model predicts traffic congestion could increase at the intersections on either end of the Road Diet at peak rush hour times.
Based on VHCA’s City Planning and Transportation consultants’ discussions with Renew Atlanta, as well as the work on the VaHi Master Plan, which called for a Road Diet on Monroe, we believe that there is reason to at the very least advocate for the implementation of a testing period for the Monroe Drive Road Diet concept.
First, the RENEW traffic model confirms that even if we do nothing and Monroe Drive does not change in any way, traffic during peak hours will remain bad and will in fact get worse. There is no scenario that will reduce traffic during peak hours. Without the Road Diet, travel time delay during rush hour is estimated to be approximately 30 minutes in the future without the Road Diet and is estimated to be approximately 40 minutes in the future with the Road Diet.
There are no options for the future of Monroe Drive that reduces travel time delay during peak hours. But there is an option for the future of Monroe Drive that reduces accidents and fatalities – and that is the Road Diet concept. We believe that any scenario that makes it safer for our community and that will avoid future tragedies is worth it and should be pursued.
Secondly, we believe that is it possible that some of the assumptions made and some of the outcomes produced by the traffic model may in fact turn out to be incorrect. The BeltLine Eastside Trail will eventually be built and when it is that could become a viable alternative to driving on Monroe for some commuters. The use of the Eastside Trail in Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward has shown that the trail, when completed, can in fact provide an attractive and popular mode of travel for commuters. The RENEW model assumes that all drivers that drive today will continue to do so in the future and this is an assumption that could be invalid.
Finally, we believe that we must make decisions on the future of Monroe Drive based on our desired outcome for the roadway and our community every day of the year and not just during work day rush hours. Monroe Drive impacts us all – and not just during rush hour. It’s the road we live on, walk on, push strollers on, walk to school on, walk to the park on, and get to the BeltLine on. It is imperative that we have a roadway designed for all of us to live with and live on every day of the year and not a roadway designed for the maximum number of commuters to drive as fast as possible for a few hours of the work day.
We know that there is no option for the future that will reduce traffic congestion during peak hours. But we can chose a future for Monroe Drive that will make it safer for everybody who uses it no matter what they use it for and no matter how often they use it.
For these reasons, we are recommending that the community advocate for the testing of the Road Diet to allow residents to experience the benefits of a road diet and to test assumptions in order that as a City we might have more information to make a better long-term decision for our city and our neighborhoods. You can make your voice heard by submitted comments to Renew Atlanta that emphasize the following:
1) The City must make safety on Monroe the #1 priority. Excessive speeds, blind left turns, and the unsafe design of Monroe have made this one of the most dangerous streets in the city. During a one week period, there were three injury wrecks and Park and Monroe. This is unacceptable
2) The dangerous conditions on Monroe demand serious changes to the road design. The best way to improve safety for all users of the street – drivers, cyclists, pedestrians,
BeltLine users, and students – is to implement a road diet.
3) We support the implementation of a road diet and ask that, at a minimum, Renew
Atlanta implement a 6 – 12 month interim road diet so that the real impacts of the road
diet on safety and travel times can be determined.
Submitted by Jenifer Keenan and Aaron Fortner