Friday, May 07, 2010

Howell Mill Hell, gridlocked eternity.

Two years later the dust has settled on the controversial Howell Mill Hell Road improvement projects. 

After hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, over one year of construction, repeated news coverage, and a small cottage industry of blogs following the story, here we are two years later. Traffic is as bad or worse than before the city "improved" the intersection at Howell Mill and Chattahoochee

Why? The plan they invested in was based upon a design from the 1980's, that was later scaled down in the early 1990's, then mothballed. Instead of doing any new research for growth trends, they simply took the plan out of storage, dusted it off, and sent the boys to work tearing up the road. 

I write this article because it is high time that we take our district in hand. It is currently choked by traffic, it's value reduced by the congestion, and the poor design of the corridor. Reference the Bank of America ATM machine... or the Einsteins and Wendy's.. all of which force you to access their businesses by crossing up to three lanes of busy traffic at a clogged intersection. They could have had access to the Howell Mill District Shopping Center, and thereby been able to use a traffic light. Reference the entrance to the Starbuck's and Verizon that is so narrow that you have to either stop traffic to make a right, or hit the curb to make the turn.  How about the Firestone and Arby's? No light access, even though the new light is right there next to the property. 

The City appears incapable of doing anything to remedy the situation even though we have the only SuperWalmart in the City limits and Piedmont Hospital West across the street.

Let's form our own Howell Mill Corridor TAD and Planning Unit to gain the ability to accomplish it's own projects using it's own funds raised from the property taxes. Perhaps we should form our own City? No, I am kidding, but seriously a TAD is very feasible.

As another example of engaging the public then simply burying the results, read the report "Upper Westside LCI Concept Prioritization Exercise" calling for "street car/trolley loop along Northside Drive/Marietta Street/Howell Mill Road and the Surrender of Atlanta Park at the intersection of Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street" as the resident's highest priority. This report was published in June 2005! Five years later, nothing has been done. How about a discussion of at least allowing a private trolley to operate? We do not necessary need the City to pay for all of this! So excuses about budget shortfalls are just shortsighted. 

Yes, it does look a bit nicer with new paint, fresh asphalt, a slight change in the lanes, but in no way does this expenditure address the problem. It does amount to yet another example of poor planning and wasteful spending by our city officials. 

And they we're made well aware of this before they ever broke ground, even hosting townhall charettes complete with Georgia Tech and Georgia Conservancy planning pundits to give the dialogue some sense of credibility. At the end of the day, none of the results of the research and public input were used to forge a plan that would be sustain the coming growth. We are just lucky, in an ironic sense, that the economy fell on it's face, since the 3000+ zoned units that would use that intersection are now on-hold,  pending the much-heralded economic recovery.

For my part, I took the time to develop a proposal, and shopped it around to various people such as Jim Borders at Navarre Properties, City of Atlanta Streets (Nursif Qadir), Jud Ready, Clair Muller, Feliciana Moore, Mayor Franklin, various NPU-D officials, and former Mayoral candidate Mary Norwood. Scott Taylor at Carter, the folks at Selig, and Winter Properties were all given a copy. Ask Selig what happened to their Development Impact Fees they paid to the City of Atlanta when they were approved for the Howell Mill District Project. Practically not one dime was spent to restructure the Howell Mill Corridor to accommodate one the largest developments in Atlanta besides Atlantic Station or the Georgia World Congress Center's expansion, the latter faces into a neighborhood overrun by crime and potentially endangers visitors to our city, since we have done nothing in the past four years to address this obvious problem. I digress, which is an all too easy thing to do in this City. There are just too many easy targets that are hard to ignore.

The concept of improvements included solutions for Howell Mill intersections from Collier to Chattahoochee Industrial. A major component features a traffic circle providing three lanes of continuous flow around the two blocks at the intersection of Howell Mill and Collier over to the Willie's, and giving direct access to Northbound 75 without the need for much of the volume to ever use Howell Mill. 

The City officials confused this plan with a plan referred to as "the Howell Mill Bypass". I had not heard of that proposal when i draft the Howell Mill Traffic Circle, but there are only minor similarities. 

 The only one who was ardently opposed was Mr. Borders. He thought that retail would suffer unless two traffic was available. I wonder what he thinks these days, now that the traffic is parked both ways on the two way road? Now that Smyrna-Vinings residents clog our streets taking the back way home to Cobb County? Now that his company's properties are not suitable for so-called liveable development owing to the smog, noise, congestion, and gridlock that encircles Navarre's holdings at Howell Mill? 

If you are interested in actively working on pulling together a Howell Mill TAD composed of residents, commercial property owners, and business owners, then please contact me at 678.389.9903 or

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