At a public meeting held May 30 in White Hall, the Alliance to
Improve Emory Village (AIEV) unveiled its recommendations for making
life more pleasant around a certain perilous intersection adjacent
to the University, and now the various constituencies will begin
exploring how to bring those plans to fruition.
Most germane to Emorys interests is the conclusion that the
best way to deal with traffic congestion and pedestrian safety in
Emory Village is to combine alterations of N. Decatur Road with
a traffic roundabout in the main intersection. Its
a plan that is being met with justifiable skepticism from most parties
involved, and thats why the next step will be to design a
pilot project that will simulate the changes without actually breaking
out the mortar and asphalt.
I think everybody is skeptical, said Jennifer Fabrick,
director of Campus Planning and an AIEV board member. I just
dont know; theres no model to look at. So the most astute
thing right now is to go ahead and test it and keep an open mind.
What would be tested is a road diet on N. Decatur between
Lullwater and Clifton roads, which essentially would reduce N. Decatur
from four lanes to threeone thru-lane in each direction with
an intermittent turn lanewith bicycle lanes on both sides
and widened sidewalks. The plan also would restrict left turns from
N. Oxford, reducing the main intersection from five points to four
and allowing the traffic light to be programmed with the conventional
two cycles of a four-way intersection.
If that test is successful, the plan is to then simulate the roundabout
in the intersection, which would eliminate the traffic light altogether
and rely simply on the roundabout itself to slow traffic and allow
for pedestrian crossing.
AIEVs final plan addresses areas other than traffic; it calls
for tens of thousands of square feet of new retail space, 150170
new residential units, removal of the angled on-street parking in
front of village shops, and the construction of new, off-street
parking facilities. And Peter Drey of Peter Drey & Co., the
urban design consulting firm hired by AIEV, said the commercial/residential
recommendations could (and should) be implemented independently
of the traffic improvements.
But everyone recognizes that the biggest problem in attracting
consumersto say nothing of possible residentsto Emory
Village is the long lines of cars queued up on N. Decatur, waiting
for the light to change.
In order to attain this safe, economically viable, mixed-use
community in the village, we need to make the intersection a safer
place to walk across, said Davis Fox, AIEV chair. The
county has talked about a road diet along N. Decatur for some time;
we have embraced that, and we think it will help create a kind of
pedestrian environment in the villagethe same pedestrian environment
the University is trying to create on campus.
The problem is that the extremely high volume of traffic through
Emory Village (roughly 21,000 cars pass through on a typical weekday
during the academic year) makes it uncertain whether a three-lane
road diet and a roundabout would work. According to traffic engineers
consulted on the project, the traffic volume in the village is at
the limit of what those alternatives could handle.
Were concerned about that, Drey admitted. But
the gist of it is that were at the upper end [of the limits],
which makes us apprehensive, but we are within the doable range,
so that makes us confidentand the prudent thing to do is to
Even a test, however, will not happen immediately. First a plan
would have to be devised outlining exactly what road alterations
would be made, identifying which roads in the vicinity are likely
to be affected and where traffic counts would need to be done. Then
theres the matter of funding.
We havent worked out all the funding issues,
Fox said, but we dont think theyre going to be
insurmountable. The county has talked about this in past.
Which touches on the finaland most importantconsideration:
What will DeKalb County approve? In order to set all AIEVs
plans in motion, the county not only would have to authorize the
work to roads and intersections, it also would have to rezone nearly
the entire village. Most of Emory Village currently is zoned Commercial-1,
which permits nearly any type of retail activity but prohibits residential
uses. Once those hurdles are out of the way, chances are greater
that developers will see the economic opportunities Emory Village
We believe that if we can put in the public infrastructure
in the streetsthe sidewalks, the road diet, street trees,
new streetlightsand if we can establish the kind of zoning
that would permit these uses, then we believe developers would take
over, said Fox, who works in real estate development and is
a Druid Hills resident.
Fox, Fabrick and Drey all said beginning a test this summer would
be ideal, but none of the three considered it a realistic goal.
Restriping N. Decatur Road during the school year could be a traffic
nightmare, and Fabrick said she would not like to see the testing
begin around the winter holidays or in conjunction with the opening
of the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts, so it could be next
summer before driversand pedestriansin Emory Village
see any changes.