By Ed McBrayer
For decades we have lived in a city where interstate highways and major arterials define the spaces in which we can safely move around as pedestrians and cyclists. Neighborhoods are isolated, boxed in by wider and wider streets where it is unsafe to leave unless you are in a car.
The ‘boxed-in’ lifestyle does not appeal to younger generations. They depend less on cars and more on muscle-powered transportation.
Instead of fleeing density and diversity, today’s younger folks, (and even older folks like me) are drawn to walkable, bikeable communities that encourage a healthier, more communal lifestyle. The borders of these communities are not defined by the inability to cross major thoroughfares; indeed the thoroughfares have been altered to include wider sidewalks, cycle tracks for bicycles, landscaped refuge islands, and more.
Doctoring up a few arterials isn’t enough to make metro Atlanta a walkable, bikeable mecca that will lure new businesses and the educated millennials they wish to employ. We need to think outside the box in order to reconnect our region and start transforming Atlanta into the ultimate friendly place for non-motorized travel.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) can take a giant leap toward this goal by including provisions for pedestrians and bicyclists in their plans to revamp the I-285/Ga.400 interchange and widen Ga. 400 north of I-285.
Specifically, GDOT should carry the PATH400 trail through the I-285 interchange and leave room for the trail north of I-285 along the edge of their widening project. They also need to provide a bicycle/pedestrian crossing of Ga. 400 that would connect Sandy Springs and Atlanta to the PATH400 trail.
This interchange divides Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, and Brookhaven, into four islands with virtually no safe connections for pedestrians and cyclists. This is a perfect place to start knitting the region back together on a human scale.
How many residents live within a mile or two of this interchange and would jump at the chance to walk or bike to State Farm, Cox Enterprises, Northside Hospital, Perimeter Mall or MARTA if a first class facility for safely making the trip was in place? How many cars would not leave the garage as a result of people walking and biking to work?
PATH is already building a trail along Ga. 400 from the Atlanta BeltLine through Buckhead to the old toll booth location. If GDOT makes provisions for the trail through the new interchange and along their widening project going north, the PATH400 trail will connect the entire Perimeter area to the Atlanta Beltline. Doesn’t this seem like a vision worth pursuing?
Our organization stands ready to help GDOT design bike and pedestrian facilities into their interchange and widening projects to insure connectivity through this area is realized.
You can help advance this vision by contacting your elected officials, attending the public meeting in Sandy Springs on Feb. 5 and reviewing GDOT’s plans at http://bikewalkdunwoody.org/news/call-for-action-gdot-400285-projects-add-trail-network-complete-streets/.
It is time to think of transportation infrastructure in a whole new way. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Atlanta to demonstrate a commitment to providing safe, alternative transportation choices for future generations.
Ed McBrayer is the executive director of the PATH Foundation, which has been building a network of off-road trails in metro Atlanta for 22 years and is helping build PATH400 in Buckhead.