Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Dunwoody, Atlanta show two different roads to improving mobility

Dunwoody has a problem with traffic congestion on one of its busiest roads and — take note, Atlanta — isn’t pretending large numbers of motorists can be induced to start riding bikes instead.

Rather, the nearly seven-year-old city is taking a very grown-up approach. It’s taking the initiative to build a new road to relieve some of the pressure from growth near Perimeter Mall, which will only get worse as a spate of offices and apartments rise from the ground.

Imagine that.

Anyone who travels or crosses Hammond Drive between Ashford-Dunwoody and Peachtree-Dunwoody roads during rush hour, including those of us who work at the AJC, knows what slow going it can be. Dunwoody’s proposed Westside Connector would take westbound traffic directly off I-285, underneath Ashford-Dunwoody, between an existing strip mall and a once-and-future office complex, and connect it onto Perimeter Center Parkway at the new towers State Farm is building.

So necessary is another piece for the area’s limited road-grid that a private developer donated 6 acres to help ensure the road is built.

“People don’t give up stuff for free if they don’t see value in it,” said Mayor Mike Davis. “We’re proactively going out and trying to find a way to fix (the problem).”

Will it be a large solution or a small one? Dunwoody officials say it would eventually remove up to 700 cars an hour from the Hammond/Ashford-Dunwoody intersection. If that sounds like a lot, consider State Farm alone is building office space for 8,000 workers. Other nearby developments are zoned for almost 2 million square feet of office space — by comparison, Bank of America Plaza, Atlanta’s tallest building, has 1.3 million — plus almost 800,000 square feet of retail, 3,800 residential units and 1,150 hotel rooms.

That’s a lot of oncoming traffic.

Even if this new road is just a small piece of the puzzle, it’s a welcome development in a metro area where elected officials too often do nothing about traffic problems or, almost inconceivably, make them worse.

The “do nothing” part you’ve heard about repeatedly. The “make it worse” option increasingly crops up in the form of so-called road diets.

If your body’s arteries are clogged, modifying your diet is a good idea. Simply cutting arteries out of your body and expecting the blood to flow elsewhere isn't. The latter is akin to taking away lane space for cars to make room for bicyclists.

Peachtree Road is in the traffic nutritionists’ sights at the moment. A new plan calls for taking away two traffic lanes on a 2-mile stretch of the road, and replacing them with a center turn lane and a bike lane on each side.

I live nearby and can attest to the need for a center turn lane; the innermost lane in each direction is pretty much used that way now. But that only makes the remaining lanes more crowded, with more growth on the way. Most times of the day, Peachtree already looks like it needs a turn lane plus three lanes, not two.

We are kidding ourselves that a 4-foot bike lane is truly safe on such a major thoroughfare. Among its other qualities, the Beltline smartly separates cars from bikes and pedestrians. While that isn’t possible everywhere, it should be the aspiration. Indeed, a north-south bike and pedestrian corridor through Buckhead, hugging Ga. 400, is under development.

Frustrated motorists want to see other options, but not at the expense of roads.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.