The Dunwoody City Council supported a proposal for changes to Mount Vernon Road with optimism at an April 12 meeting, but overarching concerns about pedestrian and bike safety remain. 

The City Council initially heard three design proposals for the section of Mount Vernon Road  between Corners Drive and Mount Vernon Place at a Feb. 8  meeting. The three proposals varied in some ways, but each included the addition of a 12-foot-wide multi-use path to the north side of Mount Vernon Road and a sidewalk to the south. The plans also included an on-street bike lane on the south side. 

During that meeting, the council expressed support for the first proposal, which would add left-turn lanes to Vernon Lake Drive, Stratham Drive and Meadowlake Drive. The council prefered that over a second proposal, which included a continuous center turn lane. The third proposal, which kept the lane configuration as is and widened the shoulders, was not viewed favorably by the public. 

Based on the council’s support for the first proposal, city staff are moving forward with that option and made a number of revisions to show to the council. The new design changes show a shortened left-hand turn lane at Vernon Lake Drive and the removal of a right-hand turn lane at Forest Springs Drive. According to city documents, that lane removal could eliminate temporary construction easements for two properties. 

Another important change moved a pedestrian crossing from the west side of Stratham Drive to the east side of Forest Springs Drive, and also flipped a left-turn lane from Stratham Drive to Forest Springs Drive. According to city documents, the new crossing location would provide a more direct route for pedestrians traveling between Forest Springs Drive and Vanderlyn Elementary School via Stratham Drive.  

Councilmember Tom Lambert said while he thought many of the changes were positive, he still had concerns about the location of the crosswalk. He said he was worried that the crosswalk was too close to Mount Vernon Place, and suggested moving it closer to Meadowlake Drive.

“That’s kind of a unique jut-out road,” he said of Mount Vernon Place. “It’s kind of a free-for-all, and cars shoot out of there rather quickly. Because of the layout of that area, I’m concerned that it will be a blindspot for pedestrians trying to cross, especially going from the south side of Mount Vernon to the north side. I’m concerned that it’s a dangerous spot for a crosswalk.”

Councilmember Joe Seconder echoed Lambert’s concerns, and suggested adding a pedestrian island or refuge to the middle of the crosswalk. He also put forth the idea of adding a bike lane separate from the multiuse path on the north side of Mount Vernon road. Right now, the designs only show a bike lane on the south side of the road. 

“I just want to see if there’s a possibility of even just creating a wide shoulder on the north side that’s westbound, just to leave people that are going to be riding that use,” Seconder said. 

Smith said a bike lane could be added in the westbound direction, but that could mean shortening the width of lanes on Mount Vernon Road. As of now, those lanes would be 11 feet wide, he said. Since Mount Vernon Road is a frequent truck and MARTA route, Smith said he worried about making the lanes any narrower.

“I think if you went less than 11 to try and squeeze a bike lane in there, you potentially create more of a hazard from the fact that those trucks and MARTA buses are probably going to encroach over into that bike lane,” Smith said. 

Mayor Lynn Deustch suggested shrinking the 12-foot-wide multi-purpose trail instead of the car lanes in order to add a bike lane, but said she didn’t think it was a priority for the council. Smith said staff could try to add bike lanes going in both directions.

“We’ll try to fit [the bike lane] in and if we run into a pinch point or some obstacle, then we could look at shrinking the path or doing something to make it fit,” he said. 

Smith did not say when the designs would be back before the council for approval. Based on city documents, the design plans are expected to be complete by the end of 2022 and construction is expected to begin by 2024.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.