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Atlanta mayor puzzles activists with veto of Baker Street’s two-way conversion

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Proponents of the plan believe changes would have made the busy thoroughfare safer

Where Baker Street traffic meets Peachtree Street downtown.
Where westbound Baker Street traffic meets Peachtree Street downtown.
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A controversial plan to restripe six blocks of downtown's one-way Baker Street as a two-way thoroughfare has unexpectedly met its demise.

For now, at least.

Just last week, the Atlanta City Council passed legislation in an 11-4 vote that paved the way for the conversion.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms thwarted the effort with a veto that has activists and onlookers alike scratching their heads.

Proponents of the two-way conversion hoped the change would make the street between Piedmont Avenue and Centennial Olympic Park safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Additionally, per the legislation, the project would “reduce congestion on Ivan Allen, Jr. Boulevard and will improve east-west mobility between the activity centers surrounding Centennial Olympic Park, Peachtree Street, and their connections to/from the downtown I-75/85 Connector to the east.”

Critics of the proposal, such as neighboring residents and businesses, claimed turning the westward-only Baker Street into an east-west roadway could endanger motorists by creating dozens of more opportunities for them to make left turns across oncoming traffic.

Plus, opponents said, the change could further congest the already popular road because delivery trucks would be able to park on both sides of the streets and restrict the brunt of automobile traffic to center lanes.

What’s perhaps most puzzling about Bottoms’s veto is the fact that the two-way conversion idea was pitched by Central Atlanta Progress and backed the the city’s planning chief, Tim Keane, who said in a tweet that the conversion would be “a win in every way.”

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also endorsed the change, and even launched a petition to lobby for it.

Bottoms has yet to outline her reasoning for the surprise veto, and a request for comment from her office was not immediately answered.

Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi provided some context as to what’s next for the proposal. He wrote on Twitter that the council’s transportation committee and Renew Atlanta leadership intend to “hold additional meetings with hotels and condos on the street, and then hopefully move forward with two-way conversion legislation.”

Added Farokhi: “I look forward to supporting that outcome.”