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Atlanta Tries To Catch Up On Street Infrastructure

Voters have approved a total of $550 million for roads, sidewalks and intersections around Atlanta.
Voters have approved a total of $550 million for roads, sidewalks and intersections around Atlanta.
Credit Al Such / WABE

Andrew Pierce sat along the sidewalk outside his house between the Bankhead and English Avenue neighborhoods enjoying the cool, autumn weather.

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Just a few feet away, cars and trucks rushed past on Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, named for the Atlanta civil rights leader.

“My mama, she introduced me to Joseph E. Lowery,” Pierce said, “I met him. Shook his hand.”

But Pierce didn’t have fond things to say about the three-lane road named after Lowery that runs from West Marietta Street in the north, through the west side and the Atlanta University Center, until it turns into Sylvan Road at the West End.

In front of Pierce’s house, the curb is low, and the sidewalks he uses to get around are just a step from cars and trucks.

Atlanta sidewalk in need of repair
Even with the new investment for Atlanta’s sidewalks, roads and intersections, the city still has a backlog of $350 million in infrastructure projects. (Al Such/WABE)

“If somebody blows a tire, you could get run over on this sidewalk like nothing,” he said.

Pierce pointed to a tree across from his house that’s growing between the sidewalk and the street.

“So many people done hit that tree because it’s so close to the road,” he said. “That’s like 6 inches, 8 inches off of the white line.”

There are plans for big fixes to Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, and maybe the tree, thanks to a total of $550 million voters have approved for roads, sidewalks and intersections around the city.

“Only since the Olympics, a little before, has Atlanta actually paid attention to its public infrastructure,” said Mike Dobbins, a former planning commissioner for Atlanta and a professor at Georgia Tech.

Poor, black neighborhoods like many along Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard have been left furthest behind when it comes to infrastructure, Dobbins said.

“Everybody ought to have what everybody else has, and we ought to take the best of what we have and extend that to the places that are most challenged,” Dobbins said.

Even with the new investment, the city still has a backlog of $350 million in infrastructure projects.

Dobbins said when it comes sidewalks and roads Atlanta is beginning to catch up to other major cities, but it still has a ways to go.

Atlanta voters are preparing to elect a new mayor and replace nearly half the City Council. In this moment of transition, WABE is exploring “The Future of Atlanta.”