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Neighbors: Metropolitan Parkway renewal plan won’t protect pedestrians, kids

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Renew Atlanta bond work addresses only about one-fourth of danger spots on crucial artery, Adair Park resident writes

This inactive railroad bridge marks the point where the Beltline’s Southside Trail will one day cross Metropolitan Avenue, just south of University Avenue.
This inactive railroad bridge marks the point where the Beltline’s Southside Trail will one day cross Metropolitan Avenue, just south of University Avenue.
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Some 80 percent of Atlanta voters approved a $250 million Renew Atlanta infrastructure bond back in 2015, and since then, the funding mechanism has kicked roadwork projects into gear across the city, including “complete streets” overhauls in Buckhead, downtown, and now Cascade Road/Avenue.

But some neighbors contend that road updates soon planned for a crucial north-south artery southwest of downtown are inadequate at best—and a waste of taxpayer money that will continue to endanger pedestrians at worst.

Concern stems from the proposed Renew Atlanta Metropolitan Parkway Project. The multilane thoroughfare connects neighborhoods such as Capitol View, Adair Park, Pittsburgh, Sylvan Hills, Perkerson Park, and Hammond Park to the heart of Atlanta.

Per Renew Atlanta, a $2.5 million project on Metropolitan Parkway is slated to begin this month and finish in May.

Unlike other Renew plans, a project description isn’t listed online; but Adair Park resident Randy Gibbs says work (boosted by federal funds) will entail milling, repaving, and restriping of a corridor identified by the Georgia Department of Transportation as one of the state’s 20 most dangerous for pedestrians.

The scope of the area in question, just southwest of downtown.
Images via GDOT road safety audit by Aecom

Fresh paving and demarcated lanes, Gibbs insists, aren’t good enough.

“We could really use a thoughtful, smart project to better support and improve the neighborhoods along Metropolitan Parkway,” he writes in an email to Curbed Atlanta. “Our kids deserve improved infrastructure as they travel over [the roadway] back and forth to attend elementary school, [and] we don’t need to waste taxpayers’ money by poorly spending it, and potentially undoing it again within a few years.”

A GDOT road safety audit last summer pinpointed 200 discrepancies—that is, potentially dangerous spots and other failings—on Metropolitan from Whitehall Street near downtown to Cleveland Avenue.

The proposed Renew plan would address only about 50 of those, or 25 percent, Gibbs says.

Time is of the essence, as unspent federal funds for the project will disappear in September, says Gibbs. He joins likeminded neighbors who’d like to see a one-year extension of the federal matching funds, allowing time for a comprehensive study of Metropolitan Parkway and a possible complete street solution, they say.

Utility pole remnants dangling over Metropolitan.

Gibbs said as much—and more—in a recent letter to GDOT officials, state reps, and Atlanta City Councilmembers. Some highlights:

“The residents that use Metropolitan Parkway daily have been effectively threatened to accept the project as planned—or receive nothing.

Metropolitan Parkway is as vital to the welfare of our residents and economic redevelopment of our communities as Memorial Drive is to the Eastside, Monroe Drive is to Old Fourth Ward, and Cascade Drive is to Southwest Atlanta. Each of these streets merited RENEW Atlanta Complete Street projects—why would Metropolitan Parkway not deserve the same consideration?

Our children deserve to be able to walk safely back and forth to Gideons-Kindezi Elementary School.

The same is true for our promising young people attending Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Atlanta Technical College. And our many carless neighbors dependent upon MARTA to travel throughout the city deserve to be able to safely cross over Metropolitan Parkway without feeling at risk.

As it stands, any pedestrian or pedaler using Metropolitan Parkway will remain in grave danger ... and a lackluster 25 percent solution is not simply good enough.”