Atlanta showed off its plan to overhaul DeKalb Avenue on Wednesday night. And the people who use and live near the road had a lot of opinions about it.
More than 200 of them crowded into the stuffy room at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Some had to sit on the floor. Others crammed in the doorway.
To applause, the city announced it was getting rid of the reversible lane that runs down the center of DeKalb Avenue. On many sections of the road from Jackson Street to Rocky Ford Road, the lane will be replaced by center turn lanes in both directions.
Bob Riordan from Inman Park was one of those glad to hear that news. As a driver, he’s sat on DeKalb Avenue for more than six light cycles waiting for cars in front of him to turn left.
But while the reversible lane could be going away within the next year, Riordan was frustrated the improvements that would make the road safer for pedestrians and cyclists wouldn’t be coming until later.
During the presentation, the city explained that wider sidewalks and bike lanes would be part of the second phase, which is in a couple of years. Riordan said a lot could change politically in that time.
“If it’s going to take two years, Lord knows, someone might come in and try to rethink it again,” he said.
Brian Maddux, meanwhile, was apprehensive about eliminating the rush-hour lane to begin with. He’s worried that will push traffic onto side streets, like McLendon Avenue.
He lives near the street in Lake Claire. He said his neighborhood has an elementary school and a lot of the children use McLendon to get there.
“My concern is how much traffic will go onto that and what safety issues does that cause,” Maddux said.
Anna Murrill came to the meeting from Midtown. She said she was happy with what the city was proposing so far. She felt it was realistic.
As part of that first phase, the city said it also will repave the road and improve the traffic signals, along with the restriping to erase the reversible lane.
Murrill said she knew the road couldn’t be transformed into a multimodal corridor right away. But she added that she would welcome any upgrades the city could make for cyclists.
“Right now, you’re taking your life in your hands if you get on a bike and go down that road,” Murrill said.
Construction on the road could start soon. City officials say they’re already buying equipment for the project.