Update on near-term safety projects for Memorial Drive

ATLANTA _ The Imagine Memorial Transportation Committee formed from the 2014 Imagine Memorial study has been working closely with Georgia Department of Transportation staff on advocating for long-term safety improvements to Memorial Drive. The death of pedestrian Barbara Crawford on March 20 and a rash of recent crashes give this work a new sense of urgency. Here is an update on projects that are being introduced in response:

1. Short-term: Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs)

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons are enhanced mid-block crosswalks activated by pedestrians that use flashing red lights to require all vehicles to stop. (See below for more details; a local example can be seen on North Avenue at Georgia Tech.) Georgia DOT’s District 7 and Traffic Safety and Operations teams are currently considering new PHBs at the following locations, in order of priority:

  • Kirkwood/Parkview: In the vicinity of Campbell/Eleanor/Howard Streets, near the site of the March 20 fatality. The exact location will be determined by engineering judgement based on topography, sightlines, and observations of current pedestrian and traffic patterns.

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    A new Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon is being considering in the vicinity of Howard Street, near where Barbara Crawford was killed March 20.
  • East Lake: Existing crosswalk at Daniel Avenue, at the northeast corner of East Lake Park.

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    GDOT staff installs a temporary pedestrian counter to collect data at the crosswalk near Daniel Avenue at East Lake Park.
  • Cabbagetown/Grant Park: In the vicinity between Boulevard and Pearl Street, likely near Berean Avenue.

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    A boy crosses Memorial Drive through traffic at Berean Avenue from Cabbagetown south to Grant Park. Despite the sign, there is no painted crosswalk here. At right (not visible) is the Wilderness Works program for at-risk youth. At left (not visible) is The New School campus.
  • Oakland Cemetery/Grant Park: In the vicinity of the Cemetery’s pedestrian gate and the Grant Park commercial district.

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    Pedestrians frequently cross Memorial Drive between Oakland Cemetery’s pedestrian gate and the popular Grant Park commercial district.

Funding: GDOT’s “Quick Response” program, which allows urgent safety projects to be designed and built on an accelerated schedule of 3-4 months. The upper limit is $200,000 each. The first two projects will likely be funded in Fiscal 2017, which ends June 30.

Timeline: Feasibility and design is in progress for the first two projects. It is possible for construction to finish by the end of Summer 2017. A potential delay could be the lead time required for procuring the equipment.

2) Short-term: East Lake Terrace intersection safety

Based on continued crashes and repeated concerns raised by residents, GDOT District 7 staff has concluded that left turns should be prohibited at Memorial Drive and East Lake Terrace. This decision was made strictly on safety merits, based on sightlines, driver speeds, crash history, and the presence of schoolchildren walking to Drew Charter School. This is one of several problematic intersections identified in the 2015 Drew Charter School Safe Routes to School plan. The addition of new signs and striping could be installed this month (May 2017). Education and enforcement will be coordinated with the Atlanta Police Department.

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The scene at East Lake Terrace on April 18, when a driver trying to turn left from Memorial Drive collided with a westbound vehicle.

Funding: Striping and signage will be funded through GDOT’s safety and operations funds.

Timeline: Construction planned in May 2017.

3) Mid-term: Resurfacing, lane reconfiguration of Memorial Drive 

Memorial Drive is scheduled for resurfacing in Fiscal 2019, which begins on July 1, 2018. Georgia DOT is exploring the potential of this opportunity to restripe with a more consistent lane pattern that reduces driving speeds, reduces confusion, and increases safety for all users. A possible configuration would be one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane. In the existing 3-lane reversible segments, this would mean converting the reversible lane into a turn lane. In the existing four-lane segments, this would require restriping to the 3-lane configuration with a painted buffer along each side. While the safety benefits of such a configuration are well-proven, it could increase delays at some intersections. The scope would be from Candler Road in East Lake west to Pearl Street in Reynoldstown.

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Confusion over the reversible lane and where turning vehicles should queue are common. The left-turning vehicle here is sitting in what is supposed to be the eastbound travel lane.

Georgia DOT staff is working closely with the Imagine Memorial transportation committee to begin public outreach about this proposal. The committee has appointed representatives from each Memorial Drive neighborhood organization. In coming months, committee will work with their respective organizations to begin hosting information sessions in each neighborhood to learn more about these projects and gather input.

Funding: This project would be funded under the general GDOT Capital Maintenance budget.

Timeline: Resurfacing is scheduled for Fiscal 2019, which begins July 1, 2018. The scheduling of the project during the fiscal year would depend on many factors, but the goal is to begin work in calendar 2018.

Resources:

Georgia DOT Quick Response projects: http://www.dot.ga.gov/BuildSmart/Projects/Pages/QuickResponse.aspx

Federal Highway Administration guide to Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons (PHBs): https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/provencountermeasures/fhwa_sa_12_012.cfm

FHWA guide to Road Diets: https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/road_diets/info_guide/

2015 Drew Charter School Safe Routes to School Plan: http://www.saferoutesga.org/sites/default/files/travel_plans/Drew%20Charter%20School%20Comprehensive%20Travel%20Plan.pdf

2012 GDOT Memorial Drive Road Safety Audit: https://memorialdriveatl.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/memorial-road-safety-audit.pdf

Other Memorial Drive resources can be found at Memorial Drive Atlanta: https://memorialdriveatl.com/