Several blocks of Courtland Street could get a major makeover

Recently there were some news articles about the awarding of a $21 million contract to replace the 110-year-old Courtland Street Bridge in Downtown Atlanta. Having made many (unpleasant) trips across its length as a pedestrian, I looked up some info on the project to get an understanding of the scope. The overview map of the project’s length was surprising. This bridge takes up almost four city blocks of Courtland Street.
Courtland Bridge
Map of the scope of the Courtland Street Bridge replacement. Source.
I wondered if the design of the street for the length of this bridge was going to be improved any, or if it would remain a car-sewer design: several one-way lanes, lined with narrow sidewalks. It’s not a good pedestrian experience. This was documented by the City of Atlanta’s planning chief, Tim Keane. Not long after he took the job, he apparently took a walk around Downtown and made note of this grim streetscape on Courtland with this tweet — a photo accompanied with a clearly-astonished reaction: “This is a street in our city.”
Courtland Street Tweet
Any kind of improvement would be very welcome. As this archival photo from the Georgia State University Library shows, the Courtland Street Bridge has been a bit of an eyesore in the city center since at least 1954.

 

courtlnd1950s
Courtland Street in 1954. Photo source.

With hopes that maybe a bike lane would be added during the redesign and rebuild, I reached out to Becky Katz. She’s the Chief Bicycle Officer for the City of Atlanta. She wrote back with some good news. Here’s her email to me, along with an image she attached (and that I edited slightly for clearer text):

“The Georgia Department of Transportation and the City of Atlanta have been coordinating on the Courtland Street project to make adjustments to the current cross section to improve the experience on the street for all users. The bridge project is actually a design/build, so the design documents are not yet created. But the following cross section was written into the bidding documents as the design guidance for the project:

  • Southern sidewalk at minimum : 8’ *(this is at least a 2’ increase in size of existing)
  • Three travel lanes – two 10’ car lanes, one 11’ travel lane to allow for easy bus travel *(this narrows all existing lane sizes)
  • Fourth travel lane -11’ * (which will be converted to a two way protected bicycle lane by the City of Atlanta as part of a larger Courtland Street project between Memorial Drive and Gilmer Street. There is an adopted cross section for the bikeway in Cycle Atlanta 1.0 page 39)
  • Northern sidewalk at minimum: 6’ *(this is the current width, but it will be adjacent to the proposed bikeway, which gives pedestrians a lot of distance from moving cars)
Courtland Street Cross Section
This image shows the way that Courtland could be divided up for the bridge rebuild.

The * are my notes and thoughts. Attached is a graphic version of the cross section. The City of Atlanta made other suggestions including improving the Georgia State crossings, designing better driveway entrances at the parking garages, etc. We plan to continue to work directly with GDOT as the project moves through design.”

Thanks much to Katz for the info. The redesign certainly looks like it would — even if only for the length of the bridge — provide a huge improvement for people on foot and on bikes. This may just be wishful thinking, but I can’t help but believe that improving Courtland’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure on this length of street could carry some weight with decisions to improve the rest of the street someday.

The timeline for the design and the work is about a year and a half, from what I can tell from the GDOT document. By the way, this is not a state road; the DOT is involved with the project but it’s a city street.

 

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