Whitlock Avenue residents who attended a public meeting about the project this week said the main goal of the project — to make Marietta more walkable — wasn’t fully achieved.
About 50 Whitlock Avenue residents came to a meeting that felt more like a neighborhood social than a public hearing.
Residents greeted each other and exchanged opinions about the plans to install sidewalks.
Scott Loughrey, who lives off Whitlock and owns Office Furniture Concierge in Marietta, didn’t approve of the 1-mile portion of the project from Kirkpatrick Drive to the Square because it doesn’t include any pedestrian walkways to cross the street.
“It’s still going to be like the Berlin Wall to cross that street,” Loughrey said. “I’m so mad I could spit. Why even do the project?”
The project, which will be funded by the $68 million redevelopment bond issuance that passed last October, will add a five-foot sidewalk to both sides of Whitlock Avenue on the 1.5-mile stretch from Polk Street Extension, which is next to a Kroger, to Oakmont Drive, which leads to Marietta Middle School. The sides of the road will also be decorated with landscaping and street lights as well as decorative signs labeling each intersection.
The plans, which were designed by Netherlands-based Arcadis, include four pedestrian walkways to cross the street in the commercial area between Polk Street Extension and Oakmont Drive.
“From Kirkpatrick (Drive) to the Square there is not a single crossing,” Loughrey said.
Another resident agreed with Loughrey. Barbara Gentile, a retiree who has lived on Whitlock for one year, said she thought the purpose of the project was to make it easier for pedestrians to travel through the area because they have to dodge traffic to cross the street.
“I walk and run every day, and it’s very dangerous with no crosswalks,” Gentile said.
Councilman Johnny Walker, who attended Wednesday’s City Hall meeting, said he agrees with residents and plans to ask city employees to add more crosswalks.
“I’m going to have to check into it. Since that portion of Whitlock is a state highway, that changes things,” Walker said. “Everything is going to have to go through GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation).”
Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development manager, said the city advises adding crosswalks is unwise.
“It’s just such a dangerous area that if we put in crosswalks, people would think it’s safe to cross, but it might not be,” Sessoms said.
Crosswalks would create a false sense of security for residents, Sessoms said.
Because Whitlock is so busy, she said, cars might not see pedestrians waiting on the sidewalks. If a person started to walk across the road, she said cars might not be able to stop in time.
Walker said he would suggest adding flashing lights to the crosswalks to make them more noticeable to drivers.
Overall positive response
Other residents praised the plans.
“I am thrilled to death about the plans. I love walking, and now people don’t have to be scared of the cars,” said Jane Sherlock, a retiree who has lived on Whitlock for 12 years.
Most residents at the meeting said they approved of the plans.
“The town has a vibrancy, and this is just going to add to that,” said retiree Peter Varljen.
Walker said he was pleased with the “incredible” turnout Wednesday.
“Everyone I met with tonight, when I showed them exactly what was going to happen with their land, they were pleased,” Walker said.
One resident Walker talked to, Margaret Kirkland, said she came to the meeting for selfish reasons but walked away pleased.
“I really came to see if my Magnolia tree would be saved and I wouldn’t be chained to it when they start construction,” said Kirkland, a retiree and 16-year resident of Whitlock. “If they take that tree they might as well take my house.”