At the end of Wednesday’s Marietta City Council meeting, 30 minutes was reserved for unscheduled appearances.
Almost all of that time was spent debating the issue of one-way traffic on Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue.
The council voted last September to approve converting sections of both streets to one-way traffic. Lawrence Street will become one-way west from Fairground to Cole streets, while Washington Avenue will become one-way east from Cole to Fairground. A speed study last year found the average speed on the two streets was 9 to 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limits.
Several lawyers with offices in the area spoke against the project Wednesday, saying they had no knowledge of the changes until they read about it in the MDJ last week.
Two residents, however, spoke in favor of the one-way changes Wednesday, including Kennesaw Mountain High School’s longtime boys basketball coach, Jesse Bonner.
One resident spoke but did not take a position on one-way streets. Four people with businesses in the area spoke against the one-way streets.
Attorney Steve Woodman said he was fine with other traffic-calming measures (the city will also install driver feedback signs and has already added speed bumps) but is opposed to the one-way changes. He told the council he sent them a petition with 166 signatures opposing one-way streets.
The lawyers argued the one-way streets will inconvenience their clients and actually increase speeding.
“One way does not slow down traffic, it speeds it up,” Woodman said.
The city held a public meeting on the matter last June, led by Councilman Reggie Copeland, who pushed for the traffic-calming measures. Copeland later told the council that the dozen or so attendees had no issue with one-way streets. Woodman, however, pointed out that some people at the June meeting spoke against one-way streets (the meeting was streamed on Facebook). The only consensus among attendees was that speed bumps were a good idea.
Ron Miklosovic, who lives on Washington Avenue, implied that Woodman must have talked to businesses and not residents.
“There are a lot of businesses, there are a lot of attorneys’ offices, a lot of powerful people on Washington Avenue. But there are also residents there as well. … I’m in support of a one-way because at least the lane that is closest to the sidewalk will be pushed out,” Miklosovic said, adding that this would create space for sidewalks and bike lanes.
City staff have told the MDJ that widening the streets would be problematic due to houses being close to the street and part of Washington Avenue being adjacent to Marietta National Cemetery. The one-way streets would solve the problem of cars being too close together when passing each other.
Lawyers Michael Treadaway and Marla Blackstone also spoke against the one-way changes. Blackstone asked the council to “consider that a business that faces increased challenges in getting its staff and its clients to its door is a constrained and handicapped business.”
Councilman Johnny Walker told the MDJ after the meeting he wasn’t sure what would happen next. On whether to reexamine the issue, he deferred to Copeland. The decision to make the streets one-way can always be reversed.
“As of now, it is what it is,” Walker said.