Dangerous stretch of Buford Highway to get $11.5 million upgrade for sidewalks, raised medians, pedestrian signals

Construction to last approximately two-and-a-half years


One of the first stories I wrote after joining CL in 2007 detailed a task force’s plan to make a dangerous stretch of Buford Highway south of Plaza Fiesta more friendly to pedestrians. Ideas included simply building more sidewalks and medians, lowering the speed limit, or constructing a pedestrian bridge. There was even a consideration to drop the “highway” from its name in favor of something more breezy, like “boulevard.”

Five years later, some of those suggestions are set to finally take shape. Whether what’s been promised is enough to make the road easier to walk for nearby residents and workers, many of whom don’t own cars and, even if they did, might not want to drive everywhere, remains to be seen. At least 22 pedestrians have been struck and killed along Buford Highway south of I-285 between 2000 and 2009. Two of those fatalities happened in the first three months of 2012 between Druid Hills Road and Clairmont Road alone.

In the next few weeks, construction crews will begin constructing $11.5 million in sidewalks, raised medians, and crossing signals along a dangerous, 2.3-mile stretch of the seven-lane road. The Georgia Department of Transportation, which is leading the construction, says the project should take almost two-and-a-half years to complete. From a GDOT press release:

“We have really been looking forward to getting this project started,” said Georgia DOT Metro Atlanta District Engineer Rachel Brown. “This project should certainly enhance the safety of pedestrians along Buford Highway as well as improving pedestrian and vehicle mobility at several intersections in the corridor.”

The $11.5 million project, which extends 2.3 miles from Lenox Road to Afton Lane, will include six pedestrian hybrid beacons, often referred to as HAWKs (a brand name), a raised concrete median throughout most of the project area which will provide a safety island for pedestrians, improvements at several intersections that will include ADA compliant ramps and pedestrian countdown timers, and sidewalks on both sides of the roadway.

The “pedestrian hybrid beacons” will be installed at or near the following locations: Near Dunnex Hill Drive and the Latin American Association; north of West Druid Hills Drive; north of Corporate Drive; Bramblewood Road; north of North Cliff Valley Drive at Northeast Plaza; and south of Afton Lane.

While starting work on the raised median, GDOT says, contractors will coordinate with 14 different companies to relocate power and sewer and other utilities — a process that’s expected to last approximately two years.

“While that is occurring, the contractor will concentrate on getting the median in place and the HAWKs built,” Georgia DOT Metro Atlanta District Construction Engineer Lee Upkins said in a statement. “We will get it done as soon as we can but there is a process that we have to follow.”

A bit of a downer: There’s nothing to suggest that officials plan to lower speed limits along the dangerous road, a move that would make the environment more pleasant for pedestrians. Or that state officials would consider reducing the number of lanes. We asked GDOT for comment and will update if we hear back.