Mar. 15, 1999
Volume 51, No. 23
Emory community has plenty of questions about proposed shuttle road at Lullwater's edge
More than 100 faculty, staff and students gathered at the Woodruff Health Sciences Center auditorium Feb. 24 for a campuswide forum and discussion on the proposed shuttle road along the edge of Lullwater connecting a planned parking deck near University Apartments with Turman Residential Complex.
In his opening remarks President Bill Chace said the shuttle road must be seen as part of a larger, comprehensive rubric. "For me there is a necessary tension between want-ing to save a very sacred and hallowed space on this campus and doing something that will benefit the community as a whole at Emory," he said.
Chace pointed out that one reality of the Emory community is its relationship to automobiles. And despite years of effort to reduce the number of automobiles coming to campus, there seems to be no sign of a significant decrease in coming years. "When people are here, I want Emory to feel intellectually and socially supported," Chace said. To achieve that, the University "must flush out from the center of campus as many automobiles as possible," in keeping with the Campus Master Plan.
Construction of a parking deck at University Apartments is a major strategy for making that happen, said Hector Morales, the Facilities Management senior project manager who has been working on the parking deck proposal. The goal is to "capture traffic at the edge and shuttle people onto the core campus."
University Apartments is one of two sites originally considered for the deck. The other is off Briarcliff Road across from Wesley Woods and adjacent to the athletic fields. But for a parking deck there to be viable, traffic congestion along Briarcliff needs to dramatically improve, Morales said.
In contrast, a deck at University Apartments provides a good location and an opportunity to redevelop the site and make it part of the campus, he said. Morales described the proposed 1,800-foot road--it would run along the edge of Lullwater as a limited-access, gated thoroughfare accessible only to electric-powered vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists. The proposed path would push as close as possible to the edge of the CSX railroad tracks that border the woods. As part of the planning process, every tree of 12 inches or more in diameter along the proposed route has been catalogued so that as many as possible can be saved.
Associate Professor of Geosciences Bill Size, chair of the University Senate committee on the environment, said that because there is little undeveloped land left on campus, its use is a very complex issue. He told the audience: "We have to be on the same side in this issue, or we'll all lose."
Emory's current citizens are "caretakers" of the campus' resources, Size said, and "what we do will set a precedent." He urged caution in dealing with the issue of Lullwater, calling it "a forest jewel in an urban environment." He and his committee are still examining other alternatives, Size said, including the deck site at Briarcliff Road and whether a shuttle route down Clairmont Road to North Decatur Road would work.
Kiera Goodman, president of the Emory chapter of the Student Environmental Action Coalition (ECO-SEAC), said she spoke on behalf of many who are "adamantly" opposed to the road. In addition to the six Lullwater shuttle route proposals currently being considered--all of which ECO-SEAC opposes--Goodman called for the University to create similarly exhaustive alternatives to the road. Petitions opposing the project have more than 1,000 signatures so far, she said, adding that any action on the proposal "should involve opinions of the community."
Many in the audience participated in the hourlong question-and-answer session that followed. One questioner asked what role Emory West would play in the parking situation. Chace responded that using Emory West primarily for parking would violate the University's agreement with the state of Georgia, which sold the property on the understanding it would be used as a center for biotechnology and technology transfer initiatives.
Longtime bike rider and faculty member Ira Longini asked why there is not a single bike path on the campus. Morales said the proposed shuttle route would be the first in Atlanta dedicated to alternative transportation, including bicycle lanes along with the electric shuttle road and a pedestrian walkway.
Medical student Cynthia Anderson wondered why planners didn't consider building a monorail. The width of monorail tracks isn't appreciably narrower than the proposed road, Morales said. A monorail wouldn't allow for pedestrian or bike access, and it could cost upwards of $25 million per mile to build, he added.
Long-time car pooler Hope Payne, of the Department of Human and Natural Ecology, asked what assurance the administration could provide that no future development would take place in Lullwater if a shuttle road is built. Chace promised that "no new substantial incursion in Lullwater will occur during my administration."
Where does the road proposal go from here?