City Councilman Andy Morris will propose adding one westbound lane on Whitlock Avenue and another westbound lane on Polk Street for traffic moving away from downtown Marietta at the council’s public works committee tonight.
“Traffic has always been a problem on Whitlock and at Polk Street,” Morris said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said he is curious to see the proposal to determine if it has a chance of reducing traffic in the Whitlock area.
“I don’t know if it’ll do what we want or not,” Tumlin said.
Tumlin said, depending on how far the new lane extends, it could still create a bottleneck effect as drivers flow out of Marietta.
Morris said he wants to discuss adding one lane on Whitlock Avenue beginning at the intersection of Kirkpatrick Drive near a Waffle House, leading away from the city to Burnt Hickory Road, next to Kroger, a distance of about half a mile.
Right now, Whitlock Avenue has a westbound lane, an eastbound lane and a middle turn lane, and Polk Street has two lanes.
The idea will be discussed to determine whether it would involve widening the roads or possibly restriping them to achieve narrower lanes.
“It’s a bottleneck there trying to get them moving (on Whitlock Avenue) from Kirkpatrick Drive out of Marietta,” Morris said.
Councilman Johnny Walker, who represents that section of Whitlock Avenue, said he likes the idea of the new lanes.
“I think it could work to help get traffic out of Marietta,” Walker said. “I think it could be a good thing.”
Walker said he would be skeptical of the proposal if it allows more people to cut through Marietta as they leave the Atlanta area and head west toward Paulding County.
“I don’t want to keep creating ways for people to cut through,” Walker said.
Walker said he will also propose lowering the speed limits on five streets off of Whitlock Avenue from 30 miles per hour to 25 to discourage commuters from using them as shortcuts through Marietta neighborhoods.
The streets include Kirkpatrick Drive, Hazel Street, Durham Street, McDonald Street and Pomeroy Street.
Councilman Grif Chalfant, who chairs the public works committee, said he wants to know more about the plan to widen the road before making a judgment because he is not in favor of making Whitlock a four-lane road.
“It could help (between Kirkpatrick Drive and Burnt Hickory Road), but I don’t think it needs to go any further. I’m still apprehensive about doing it because the next step is a four-lane Whitlock,” Chalfant said.
Chalfant opposes making Whitlock Avenue four lanes wide because he doesn’t want to give people who don’t live in the area a way to cut through Marietta.
Morris’ proposal would not make Whitlock Avenue four lanes, but it comes at a time of redevelopment in the area. Changes to the road continue to be proposed while it is under construction for a streetscape project funded by the $68 million redevelopment bond issuance passed in October.
The streetscape project, which will cost $4 million, will put in sidewalks, pedestrian crossing lights, trees and decorative signs along a 1.5-mile stretch of Whitlock Avenue between Oakmont Drive, which leads to Marietta Middle School, and Polk Street Extension, which is next to a Kroger.
“I thought it would be a good time to bring it up,” Morris said.
Dan Conn, the city’s public works director, said his department will wait for the council’s direction before taking any action on the proposal. The city doesn’t yet know what it would cost.
In addition, Morris is proposing adding one westbound lane on Polk Street leading away from the city to Burnt Hickory Road, where he said traffic backs up.
Chalfant said a traffic study may be ordered for the area to test the proposal.
Walker agreed with Chalfant.
“It makes sense to me to do a traffic study to see if this would work,” Walker said.
If the council gives the go-ahead to the city’s public works department, it will draw up plans for the added lanes. But those plans could be delayed because the Georgia Department of Transportation would have to approve the plans for Whitlock Avenue because it is a state highway, Chalfant said.
“We’d have to work through a lot of red tape, so it’s a long ways away,” Chalfant said.