(BCID) is currently looking at ways to improve Peachtree Road and it seems like a diet may be in order — a "road diet" to be exact.
Anyone who has travelled along Peachtree Road between Maple Drive to the north and Pharr Road to the south has experienced the traffic drama that almost always ensues during peak hours, often as a result of not having dedicated left turn lanes. Drivers headed north and southbound weave in and out of the left lanes as they attempt to utilize them as through lanes, getting caught behind those actually using them to turn left and creating a real traffic problem.
Now a slightly narrow six lanes, the "road diet" would take that amount down to four slightly wider through lanes, with a shared dedicated turn lane in the middle.
Jonathan Reid of Parsons Brinkerhoff was charged by the BCID with creating a transportation and land use model for Peachtree Road to look at ways to improve it and presented the first of those findings at last week's BCID meeting at Tower Place. Parsons Brinkerhoff is recognized as one of the leading planning, engineering, and program and construction management organizations in the world.
Executive Director of the BCID, Jim Durrett, said that the study should help determine a better utilization of the entire right of way the BCID has to work with to handle all kinds of traffic — automobile and pedestrian. Not only should the study help with current conditions, but well into the future when more development comes along.
"Is there something we can do to take left turning traffic out of a travel lane and increase the safety along the road and increase the traffic flow?" he said. "That is what we are modeling right now, to see what the impacts of doing that sort of a modification would be."
Reid said during his presentation that those driving down Peachtree in the afternoon have likely experienced traffic coming to a halt because of just one left turning vehicle.
"A lot of people avoid the third lane because you are taking your chances of getting caught in it," Reid said.
Urban areas that utilize the "road diet" on main thoroughfares have seen a 20 to 45-percent reduction in minor accidents and a much lower rate of more serious wrecks, Reid said.
In addition to improving safety for motorists and pedestrians, the "road diet" also seems to decrease travel times, Reid explained. Currently, vehicles traveling southbound in the discussed area average a speed of 9 mph. After the road diet the speed increases to 11 mph, according to the study. Northbound, speeds improved from 14 to 18 mph.
"In the model the bulk of the corridor is doing better than the current configuration because not only is the left turn blocking you, but then you've got all the weaving and people are pulling in and pulling out and doing all kinds of strange movements," Reid said. "Those are taken out so the through lanes can be through lanes and the left turn lanes can be left turn lanes."
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Most urban areas operate in the 10 - 20 mph range, Reid said. Once speeds slow down under 10 mph, he explained that it is usually a sure sign of a problem.
Transportation funding at a federal level and state level are increasingly looking to have solutions developed that address multiple modes of transportation, Durrett said. With this fact in mind and in an effort to create a more walkable and livable environment, the proposed plans also allow room for a bike lane and possibly wider sidewalks with streetscaping.
Future development could cause worse problems for this section of Peachtree Road, Durrett said, which is why this study is so important.
"As a concept, this is working," he said. "The current Peachtree out there right now is going to fail earlier than this concept"
The plan isn't without its concerns, however. BCID board Vice Chairman John Lundeen, CEO of Coro Realty Advisors expressed concerns about vehicles southbound on Peachtree Road attempting to turn right at West Paces Ferry Road. Lundeen worries that the back up that now occurs because of those turning vehicles will become much worse, affecting properties along Peachtree from Loudermilk Park north to Maple Drive.