Atlanta officials held a ceremony with the relatives of civil rights heroes Tuesday to celebrate the completion of renovations to a busy corridor named after the city’s most famous son.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive has transformed into a seven-mile stretch of tidy sidewalks, pedestrian crosswalks, traffic signals, streetlighting, road medians, art installations, and more. The work to beautify the streets and sidewalks in one of Atlanta’s most impoverished areas began in 2016 after then-Mayor Kasim Reed initially proposed it in 2013.
Jessica Fulton, deputy commissioner for Atlanta’s Department of Transportation, said the $30 million project includes more than $12 million from the Federal Transit Authority and the Federal Highway Administration. The project used funds from Invest Atlanta and the Westside Tax Allocation District, as well.
Fulton said it’s also the first complete street project in the city to be funded with the renewed bond and T-SPLOST funds.
“The best is yet to come and the future is bright as we make a positive impact and investment in our people when we invest in this road,” Mayor Andre Dickens said during the celebration at Mozley Park.
Spanning from Northside Drive to Fulton Industrial Boulevard, the MLK Jr. Drive corridor now features a median buffer between eastbound and westbound traffic. From Westlake Avenue at Interstate 20 to Northside Drive, the corridor was also reduced from four to three lanes with the medians and a left turn lane in an effort to reduce crashes and injuries.
The previous four-lane roadway had accident rates that were about three times the state average, averaging two accidents and nearly one injury a day, Fulton said. Reducing the roadway to three lanes could reduce accidents by 20% to 50%, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Additionally, the lane conversion features space for a dedicated bike lane and more distance between vehicles and pedestrians.
For safer travel throughout the corridor, Atlanta installed ramps compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, rapid flashing beacons, crosswalk traffic signals with push buttons, and lights for drivers and pedestrians.
Atlanta installed several colorful mural bike racks through the corridor to encourage pedestrian travel. The city also installed sculptures honoring the city’s local civil rights icons, including four bench statues of Dorothy Bolden, Rita Samuels, Hosea Williams, and William Alexander Scott.
Camille Love, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, said the city plans to install nearly 30 more art pieces along the corridor by year’s end. The forthcoming installations include a large water fountain, an MLK Jr. mural and several large gateway sculptures.
Scott’s granddaughter M. Alexis Scott attended the celebration and spent some time admiring his statue. Scott founded the Atlanta Daily World, the first successful African American-owned daily newspaper in the nation. She said the statue means a lot to her because of the mystery surrounding his murder.
Scott was shot in the back at the front door of his home in 1934. The killer was never caught.
“My grandfather died so young,” Alexis Scott said. “He was on his way to 32 when he was killed. A lot of people didn’t know about it and he didn’t get the kind of recognition that he deserved.”