Traffic and connectivity were major talking points during a public presentation of Brookhaven’s City Centre plan at a Wednesday meeting.

The city held a virtual public meeting on Jan. 26 to present the plan to the public and hear feedback. The “City Centre” project is part of the city’s 2034 Comprehensive Master Plan and is meant to create a framework for a possible downtown area and guide future developments in the commercial area along Peachtree Road.

The City Centre plan presented at the meeting shows a linear group of public spaces and developments connected by a network of trails rather than one condensed downtown area. 

“What’s really unique about this corridor is you could fit three downtown Decaturs within it,” said Chris Mutter, a partner with the architectural firm HGOR. “It’s quite a challenge to say where is a town center, where is the epicenter, in something this linear and this large in size.” 

The plan also offered ideas on how to make the city more walkable, particularly along Peachtree Road, and how to connect the eastern and western parts of the city. The plan shows a multi-use trail on Peachtree Road and also includes the possibility of adding pedestrian and biking trails across Peachtree Road to make it easier to get from one side of the city to the other without driving.

The presentation did not include plans for where specific features, such as a City Hall, would be located. However, it does include nine potential open spaces that development could be organized around. 

A map rendering of the framework for Brookhaven’s City Centre plan.

“In our framework plan, what we’re looking to achieve is looking at those potential developable areas,” Mutter said. “What are open or undeveloped areas where we can organize a road system and improve the crossing points in the road, and create realistic open space that doesn’t exist today that potential developments can be organized around?”

Many participants in the meeting had questions about how the plan would impact traffic, particularly at rush hour. The plan proposes to reduce the number of car lanes on Peachtree Road in both directions and make them narrower, which Mutter said would cause commuters to drive less aggressively and help make the flow of traffic better. 

“The road was engineered long ago and it has lane widths that aren’t in the playbook that GDOT applies to roads that are updated currently,” Mutter said. 

Mutter also said that hopefully, creating pathways across Peachtree Road would cut down on local traffic, which should take some cars out of the equation during rush hour and commuting hours. 

“Theoretically we should be taking more cars off these counts,” he said. “If we can make that quarter mile walk for a family to get to Town Brookhaven, that’s going to lessen the car load that’s going through the corridor.” 

However, there were concerns that narrower or fewer lanes would not help traffic and that eliminating local traffic wouldn’t actually take that many cars off the road. Mutter said he understood how the concept could be “counterintuitive,” but he believed it would work. A 2020 report from Transportation For America, an American policy organization, also states that more lanes can increase traffic congestion. 

“It makes car travel consistent and less stop and go,” Mutter said. “The system flows through more efficiently.” 

Mutter said in addition to narrowing or reducing the amount of lanes, one solution to creating better traffic flow would be to get rid of “inefficiencies,” and that there are many aspects of the Peachtree Road corridor that hinder traffic flow. For example, he brought up a left hand lane that is a travel lane for most of the corridor, but becomes a turn lane with little to no warning.  

“Part of the traffic that we see during this corridor is because of those inefficiencies, not truly because of the vehicle demand or count,” Mutter said. 

The City Centre plan is expected to be presented to both the Brookhaven Planning Commission and Brookhaven City Council at work sessions in February, according to the City Centre website. The City Centre plan will go before the City Council for approval on March 22. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.