(UPDATED) Dear Decaturish – Keep the Atlanta Ave Crossing Safe for DecaturThe current working plan, from https://decatur.civicweb.net/document/4040. Adair Street is on the top. The number of lanes a student or other user would have to cross increases from the current configuration. Pedestrian safety advocates point out that shortening crossing distances and minimizing lanes of traffic is one of the best ways to improve safety outcomes. In addition, Adair Street would become a through street from points south to West Ponce.
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This letter replaces an earlier letter that contained inaccurate information.
On Monday 21 March, the commissioners of the City of Decatur will be voting on a new plan for the Atlanta Avenue Crossing. The city commission, along with Decatur staff members, have been working hard to keep our citizens safe and our roadways efficient, but sometimes you can’t have both in equal measure. We believe that the new plans that the city is considering do not live up to ideals and practices that have made our city a gold standard for walkability in Georgia.
Students, the elderly, cyclists, runners all enjoy the PATH that runs along Howard Ave. But the Atlanta Ave Crossing has long been a fly in the ointment. The complicated nature of the crossing that links together two parallel throughways across a CSX rail line has made the intersection unsafe for pedestrians and awkward for car commuters. The proposed solution is a large new intersection, with additional driving lanes and turn lanes that will imperil people who walk, bike, and wheel-chair in the area.
We believe that our commissioners should consider leaving the intersection unchanged until there is a solution that is best for our most vulnerable users. We ask that they alter the plans to remove extra lanes and remove no-stop right-turn lanes.
Do Not Widen Howard and Adair
To make the new intersection, the plans would call for a widening of West Howard Avenue, removing a section of the road diet that has calmed traffic and improved safety along the route. The plans would also widen Adair as it crosses the tracks.
Currently, kids crossing the tracks in this area to get to or from F.AVE, Renfroe, or Decatur High, traverse no more than three lanes at any given time. The new plans would increase the danger by forcing students and other users to cross four lanes at West Howard. In addition, depending on their destination, they might also find themselves crossing the widened Adair Street – four lanes that cross the tracks.
Remove the Dangerous Right Turn Lanes
The plans also add dedicated right-turn lanes, which allow drivers to turn without stopping. Such lanes have been proven to be dangerous to walkers and people on bikes or in wheelchairs because a driver who is not forced to stop may not properly look for people in the crosswalk. Children, being smaller, are especially difficult to see. Pedestrian safety advocates and engineers are wary of no-stop right-turn lanes because they have been proven to be less safe.
The city’s planners believe that the peril of these particular lanes could be lessened by tightening turn radiuses and adding special buttons for pedestrians to press. But the truth is that drivers are becoming more distracted and more aggressive, especially during times of high traffic. Decatur residents and visitors are tired of drivers speeding through the city, especially today, when death and injuries from motor vehicle crashes are dramatically increasing. Building a wide new intersection with dangerous turn lanes is a step in the wrong direction.
Avoid Making Lenox Place a Cut-through
The current plans will widen Adair Street to four lanes as it crosses West Howard and the CSX tracks. This new crossing would likely cause a dramatic change to traffic patterns. Adair Street and other streets in the quiet Lenox Place neighborhood might become major new cut-throughs from College to West Ponce. Motorists from West College Avenue would be able to cross the tracks, cross West Howard Avenue, and take Adair to West Ponce. More importantly, the many people who walk and bike in the area would find themselves confronting a wide new intersection.
Make Smaller Changes to Increase Safety
Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Considering less radical tweaks to the current crossing would be safer. Certainly they’d be easier and cheaper. Whatever the case, we don’t need a large new intersection that will add to the dangers that school children and other people on foot, on bikes, or in wheelchairs already face when navigating the city.
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