An Atlanta City Council member says the city is nearing an agreement that will let the state permanently close part of a street that runs between the state Capitol and a legislative office building to enhance security.
Council member Michael Bond tells WAGA-TV that in exchange for the city agreeing to let the state close a block of Mitchell Street, the state will finance sidewalk and safety improvements along a state-owned road on the northwest side of Atlanta.
The block of Mitchell Street that runs between the Capitol and the Coverdale Legislative Office Building has been closed for years during sessions of the General Assembly, in part because there is heavy pedestrian traffic back and forth. But state officials have had a request pending for years that the city give up the block so the street can be permanently closed to enhance security.
“It is vulnerable,” said Bond, who as a councilman works at Atlanta City Hall, which is diagonally across Mitchell Street from the Capitol.
The focus on security has been renewed in recent months, following racial injustice protests over the summer that sometimes met an aggressive police response at the Capitol, and since the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Gov. Brian Kemp and other officials agreed to spend $5 million in safety improvements after the summer, in part because the Republican governor has kept a detachment of National Guard soldiers activated to provide security at the cost of at least $200,000 a month.
Workers now are digging a trench to build the foundation for the 8-foot metal fence, which will have spikes on top. Security has been even tighter since Jan. 6, with a lane of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive blocked off on the north side of the state Capitol where aides to the governor formerly met, and state troopers with assault rifles patrolling the grounds.
Bond said the state Department of Transportation has agreed to make sidewalk and safety improvements to state-owned Donald L Hollowell Parkway, formerly known as Bankhead Highway, on the city’s northwest side.
“We are going to get three-and-a-half miles of safety improvements,” Bond said. “It’s a good deal for that northwest community and makes the Capitol safer downtown.”