Imagine Memorial Drive -- without all the speeding

On Tuesday, February 21, 207, residents of the neighborhoods along Memorial Drive packed the cafeteria of Drew Charter School to hear updates on “Imagine Memorial.”

Atlanta City Councilmember Natalyn Archibong, introduced Greg Giuffreda, the Central Atlanta Progress Corridor Executive responsible for coordinating projects and developments along the 5.5 mile stretch of Memorial Drive.

I run into Greg all the time when I’m biking to meetings on Memorial Drive, so I’ve heard tidbits about projects here and there, but on Tuesday he demonstrated his comprehensive knowledge of the corridor. His update included what’s happening with new developments, and even his thoughts on a few parking lots that could become much-needed housing.

But the main reason the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition attended and promoted this meeting was to learn about opportunities to make Memorial Drive a safe street for people. Streets in the city should be safe for people. Whether we’re on foot or bike, or driving in cars or trucks, everyone’s safety would benefit from reduced speeding.

Despite being home to five schools and too many homes and apartments to list, Memorial Drive functions more like a highway than a street that connects neighborhoods. Speeds regularly reach 60 miles per hour, even at school crossings, yet it’s a short driving distance from I-20, an actual highway serving the same area.

At the meeting, Andrew Heath of the Georgia Department of Transportation noted there have been 1,000 crashes in the past five years on Memorial Drive. That’s nearly one a day.  Heath added that four of those crashes resulted in death (this does not include two more fatalities in the recent high speed crash that killed a Decatur mother and seriously injured her young daughter.)

At the request of the community, the Georgia Department of Transportation commissioned a traffic study focused on “operations and safety.” An engineering firm gathered crash data, counted the number of cars that use Memorial every day, and analyzed different lane configurations.

The report, which we’ve heard about but not yet seen, attempts to predict what would happen to traffic congestion decades from now, comparing what would happen if the two inside lanes were converted to a center turn lane to facilitate safe left turns.  It’s unclear if the report takes trends such as autonomous vehicles and reduced rates of driving into account in its predictions. The traffic study’s findings are “under review” but have been shared with the Imagine Memorial transportation committee.

More importantly from the standpoint of a safer, saner Memorial Drive is the question of what projects might be recommended by the study. Heath indicated the state Department of Transportation would work closely with Imagine Memorial to make those decisions, and that any projects would have public meetings and involvement.

Our ideas for reducing speeding on Memorial Drive include:

  • Get rid of dangerous reversible lane, which causes many of the crashes.
  • On the section with four lanes, combine the two inside lanes into one center turn lane. This would make today’s harrowing left turns across high speeds and with limited visibility a thing of the past and reduce crashes.
  • Add medians where space permits.
  • Complete all the sidewalk improvements and connections.
  • Add a buffer space of some kind (sidewalk widening, or painted buffer) to protect people walking on the sidewalk or waiting on the bus.
  • Add signalized crossings so people don’t have to walk a half mile to get to a light, or risk crossing without one.
  • Improve intersection safety, especially at school crossings, with pavement markings, flashing lights, and giving pedestrians a head start when the light changes.

The demand for a safe Memorial Drive is not only reflected in the residents who were in attendance, but in the number of important projects tied to Imagine Memorial’s success, like the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative, the City of Atlanta’s neighborhood greenways and Trolley Line projects, and the Atlanta BeltLine.

If you want to receive updates on this project and get involved, please support this project on our website here.