A million bucks for Boulevard street improvements?

An ARC funding recommendation could bring pedestrian safety fixes.

Courtesy Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh

One of the line items in the T-SPLOST project list was improving Boulevard pedestrian safety. While the demise of T-SPLOST put dozens of local projects on hold, the Boulevard improvements—or at least a modified version—could move forward, thanks to a recommendation from the Atlanta Regional Commission that would allocate $1 million to infrastructure improvement along Boulevard from Ponce de Leon Avenue to Memorial Drive. A matching $250,000 would be chipped in by the city, for a total $1.25 million.

The planned improvements include raised medians between John Wesley Dobbs and North Avenue, mid-block crosswalks at strategic locations, and other pedestrian safety measures.

This would be the largest-scale improvement to Boulevard in years, one that’s sorely needed. The area sees a lot of foot traffic but is not pedestrian-friendly by any means. Indeed, as someone who lives on Boulevard, and walks a lot—I’d describe it as downright pedestrian-hostile. I frequently pass people maneuvering wheelchairs down multi-lane stretches of Boulevard because the sidewalks are impassible.

The city’s planning department, working with councilmember Kwanza Hall’s office, submitted the funding request to ARC earlier this year. Over the past months, ARC reviewed this and other pitches in light of the T-SPLOST failure, and last week issued an adjusted set of updates to its long-term transportation plan.

The next step, according to spokesman Jim Jaquish, is for the local governments to review ARC’s project descriptions. Then the ARC finalizes the list and adds the projects to its Transportation Improvement Program. After that, the projects should be complete in the next six years. The construction, management, and execution of the projects will be carried out by local governments—in the case of Boulevard by the city’s planning and development department.

“A giant ‘Wow!’ is in order,” said Hall. “This is the single largest investment in Boulevard in at least a decade—if not longer—and speaks volumes to the power of having a plan that has broad-based input.”

Hall’s referring to the overall master plan for the Old Fourth Ward spearheaded by his office and developed with community and expert input back in 2008. One of the plan’s key goals is to revitalize the area without pushing out long-time residents, in other words, avoiding the pattern of gentrification and displacement that’s taken place in other parts of the city.

Making Boulevard safer for pedestrians and seniors will benefit both low-income residents who don’t have cars and newcomers who want transit alternatives. Improved pedestrian safety will also make it easier for Old Fourth Ward residents to get to, and use, the Atlanta Streetcar line.

“This investment in the Boulevard corridor, especially near the Bedford Pines-area, will show some love to the residents,” said Hall. “It shows an investment. It will wake up people who live in the community that they’re cared about. It will make the area more attractive to investors. Even people who just drive through will feel like they’re in a whole new place.”

Read even more

If you’re a policy wonk at heart, click here to download the draft O4W master plan. (Pages 41 and 51 are parcularly relevant to this news.)

Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh, which worked on the plan, has a nifty one-pager one-pager with renderings of proposed improvements. Click here to download the PDF.

And finally,  go here for more on the ARC local transit project funding.