Advocates: Atlanta’s infrastructure bond package should include funding for Lee Street bike lane project

‘Bicycle commuters would say that people drive too fast. People treat it like a ‘de facto’ highway.’


  • Livable Lee Street

Brent Brewer sees huge potential in Lee Street’s future. The Historic West End resident says the state road running from Morehouse College to Fort McPherson could become one of the city’s most important bicycle routes. But the southwest Atlanta bicycling advocate says the road, which has more car lanes than necessary, fails to meet the city’s bicycling needs.

Lee Street is well-traveled by the road warriors, the spandex-clad folks, who ride it every Saturday,” Brewer says. “But bicycle commuters would say that people drive too fast. People treat it like a ‘de facto’ highway. So families don’t ride on Lee Street.”

He’s helped organize a grassroots effort, called People for Livable Lee Street, to bring protected bike lanes to the major southwest Atlanta artery from the Atlanta Beltline’s Westside Trail to the city limits. The advocacy group is calling upon officials to fund the project through the upcoming $250 million infrastructure bond package. The two-way bike lane project isn’t included on the city’s bond project list.

The group’s members last week expressed their concerns at the city’s final public bond package meeting in Lakewood Heights. Voters will get to decide on whether the city should take on the debt to fix its roads, sidewalks, bridges, and buildings on March 17. Early voting is already underway.

Numerous city plans, most recently the 2013 Cycle Atlanta study, have called for turning Lee Street into a bike-friendly road for more than a decade. Lee Street’s conversion into a Complete Street would help connect multiple neighborhoods such as Adair Park, Oakland Park, Sylvan Hills, and West End. Brewer says it would also provide a safe route for bicyclists and pedestrians with improved access to the under-construction Beltline trail.

Rebecca Serna, executive director of Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, tells CL that two-way protected bike lanes on Lee Street is a top priority in building out the city’s biking infrastructure. Because Lee Street runs along flat terrain that follows the MARTA line south of Five Points, she says it could become a valuable corridor for bicyclists in southwest Atlanta.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is scheduled to resurface more than six miles of roads between Downtown and East Point, including a major stretch of Lee Street, in the near future. Brewer says city officials should help state workers redesign the road to include bicycle use. According to ABC, the Lee Street project would cost no more than $1.3 million. Brewer says the project would “probably be less than $100,000” given that the state would already be repaving and milling the road.

Mayor Kasim Reed spokeswoman Jenna Garland tells CL the Lee Street project is on the city’s radar. Atlanta’s public works department will work with Atlanta City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow to see if the city needs to break the project up into multiple segments of if the project can be done at one time. A city official told residents at last week’s meeting that “another funding mechanism” aside from the bond package would be used to the fund the Lee Street project, but did not elaborate on specifics.

“We’ve heard the concerns about Lee Street at last week’s public meeting and prior to the meeting as well,” Garland says in an email. “We understand the need for the project because of the unique features of the area: the connection to the Atlanta University Center, the future Southwest portion of the BeltLine, and MARTA connectivity.”

If the bond package gets approved, People for Livable Lee Street members plan to continue lobbying officials to make the two-way bike lane project a part of the massive infrastructure investment.