Despite resident outcry, city approves downtown two-way street conversion

Atlanta United defeated Portland 2-0 to capture the MLS Cup at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The parade began at Baker Street and Peachtree Street.  On Monday, Atlanta City Council voted to change the road into a two-way street. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

A controversial move to convert a downtown Atlanta road into a two-way street — an effort to ease traffic congestion — was approved Monday despite resident opposition.

In an 11-4 vote, Atlanta City Council approved the change to the four-lane stretch of Baker Street currently running west from Piedmont Avenue to Centennial Olympic Park Drive.

The $2.67 million project is the first of more than six miles of one-way streets slated for conversion. Other streets on Atlanta’s downtown master plan wish list are John Portman Boulevard, Andrew Young International Boulevard, Ellis Street, Centennial Olympic Parkway, Ted Turner Drive, Peachtree Center Avenue and Mitchell Street.

The city will fund $1,287,500 of the Baker Street project. Remaining funds will come from a transportation special purpose tax, or TSPLOST funds. The city has not announced when work will begin or be finished.

The city hopes the change will reduce eastbound traffic on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and improve the traffic flow in areas surrounding Centennial Olympic Park and Peachtree Street.

For weeks leading up to the vote, residents and business owners complained the change would actually ruin the traffic flow the one-way street provides.

“I think the quality of life issues are really important. Those are not addressed in the ordinance,” Museum Tower resident Jennifer Brooks said at the council meeting. “What you’re voting on today is easing Ivan Allen (Jr. Boulevard) and we really don’t have evidence that that would happen.”

Fellow Museum Tower resident Daryl Joyce said changing Baker Street to a two-way is going to make it difficult to make left turns, which he said are already dangerous to make on the one-way street. The 25-story high-rise sits at 285 Centennial Olympic Park Drive.

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“What I don’t like is the lack of consideration for the safety of the people who live in that area,” Joyce said at the meeting.

Joyce also pointed out there are two high-rises located on Baker Street and the four parking decks in that area are built for an exit flow onto a one-way street.

Downtown Atlanta Neighborhood Association board member Deirdra Greenfield said she supports the two-way street change and sees it as an opportunity to transform the city.

“I see lots of opportunity to go both ways and with what’s going on here today I think it’s great to have two-way conversion to transform the city into more of residential, welcoming city,” Greenfield said at the meeting.

As part of the legislation, the city will collect crash and vehicle count data — including injuries and deaths — on Baker Street, John Portman Boulevard, Piedmont Avenue, Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Centennial Olympic Park Drive. The data will be submitted to the transportation committee six months after the conversion.

A map of proposed changes to Baker Street in downtown Atlanta. (City of Atlanta)

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