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Chamblee-Tucker "Speedway" Claiming Too Many Victims

A simple roadway conversion may turn Tucker’s most dangerous road into a safer place to work, attend school and live.

Ever hear of something called a Road Diet? Think of it as the equivalent to Weight Watchers, only for roadways. Many of us need tummy tucks and tightened buttocks. Well, communities across our country are trimming the fat off their wide streets, adding bike lanes and center turn lanes for a leaner look.

Three weeks ago, Tucker resident Jennifer McKillop heard what sounded “like a bomb going off” in her front yard.

She and many of her neighbors ran from their homes to find a car flipped over in her front yard (see photos). Two Tucker teenagers drag racing down Chamblee-Tucker Road caused a three-car accident, flipped an innocent woman’s car, and totaled two of the three cars.

Two people were transported to area hospitals.

There is an average of 60 and 90 car accidents a year on Chamblee-Tucker Road. (source: GA Dept of Transportation)

This is the fuel to the on-going discussion of our infamous “Chamblee-Tucker Speedway” - the unfortunate nickname local police and Fire & Rescue teams have dubbed the two mile stretch of Chamblee-Tucker Road between Tucker High School and the QT by Tucker-Norcross Road.

That area of road averages almost one fatality a year, with accident statistics two-times greater than similar roadways in the county. (DeKalb Dept. of Transportation)

Jane Tanner, a Chamblee-Tucker Road area resident, has put her nose to the grindstone working the past seven years with neighboring residents, local civic communities, and the county to help make a positive change to this precarious artery.

“It’s just repainting. That’s it.”

According to Tanner’s research, changing that strip of roadway back to 2 lanes with an added middle turn lane could be the answer to our problems.  

“We were informed by the DOT that it would cost between $30,000 and $35,000 dollars to restripe the two mile section, whereas a brand new traffic signal costs between $100,000 and $150,000,” explains Tanner.

“The difference in cost for two new lights, is ten times the cost of re-striping. Which do you try first?” asks a puzzled Tanner.

In 2004 Tanner originally asked the Georgia Department of Transportation to look for solutions and in 2006 they started studying and designing the new two-lane road diet option. That was five years ago.

“I’m flabbergasted it’s not a priority to them. Maybe there are more things that are pressing, but a person is killed every year on this road.”

By design, a road diet allows for smoother traffic flow during both slow and peak driving hours. It reduces speed (you can only go as fast as the car in front of you) and provides center turn lanes allowing traffic to proceed without having to sit and wait.

What’s more, it will help all the neighborhood streets up and down Chamblee-Tucker Road merge in and out of traffic quicker and easier. It is a win-win for everyone.

Chamblee-Tucker Road became a four-lane thoroughfare around 20 years ago. Long-time residents in the area remember the days when it was much safer as a two-lane road, and they’ve complained to the county about the speeding ever since.

“The design of the new road is a done deal, it’s all done, we’re just waiting on a funding source,” explains Tanner.

Go to Chamblee-Tucker Road Project Facebook page to check out photos and learn more about the “Chamblee-Tucker Speedway” or email me at Parks@TuckerCivic.org

Jennifer McKillop June 23, 2011 at 11:47 AM
Thanks Pam for writing this article and a BIG THANK YOU to Jane Tanner for her tireless work on this important project. I look forward to helping to make the road diet REAL for the residents of the Chamblee Speedway in the near future. Is there a place we can find more information - Jen McKillop
Rich Benevento June 23, 2011 at 12:30 PM
As a regular walker to Livsey Elementary School I will be so happy to see speed somehow controlled on Chamblee Tucker Motor Speedway. At least for that stretch by the school one would hope!
Leslie Richardson June 23, 2011 at 12:57 PM
Pam, by speaking out you have let others know how important this is. Thank you so much! Leslie Richardson
wle atlanta II June 23, 2011 at 01:10 PM
it sounds good as a regular cyclist, that stretch of flat wide road that actually connects to destinations is very useful [part of that route is actually a continental divide - water on the south side flows to the gulf of mexico, on the north to the atlantic] bike lanes would be great but - i thought though that this whole road diet thing was tried and denied about 3 years ago the counterargument was "but it;s too congested now, cutting capacity by 50% will only make that worse".. ? how is it now a done deal? wle
Ambush Donley June 23, 2011 at 01:58 PM
I hope everything works out just fine as I know it will... Keep it up Jen!!!!!!
Cadence June 23, 2011 at 04:29 PM
If they did make that stretch of road only two lanes with a turning lane, traffic would be unimaginable, especially in the mornings and afternoons. People will certainly slow down if they have a couple of Dekalb's finest sitting in various sections of the road. I don't think re-striping the road is the right decision, just like those idiotic "traffic calming" structures on North Park (just off Chamblee-Tucker) that runs by the Kelly Cofer pool were the right choice either.
wle atlanta II June 23, 2011 at 04:36 PM
yep just like i said an objector === "Cadence 12:29pm on Thursday, June 23, 2011 If they did make that stretch of road only two lanes with a turning lane, traffic would be unimaginable, especially in the mornings and afternoons. " === anyway it;s a 'done deal', right? yes or no? i'm ready for safer cycling at least wle
Pam McNall June 23, 2011 at 05:38 PM
The "design" of the lanes is a done deal. How it would flow, layout as a 3 lane-road with bike lanes, center turn lane, etc. It is far from a done deal, as they are still waiting for a funding source. More to come on this subject folks. Lots to discuss. Expect a few more columns on this one. Thanks for the comments!
Lisa Kuebler June 23, 2011 at 06:53 PM
I think the center turn lane will be extremely helpful, especially during school drop-off and pickup times. Traffic around Livsey road gets very crowded then. But, how will restriping the lanes help slow people down when it's not a high traffic time? We used to live within walking distance to school, but across Chamblee Tucker, and we couldn't walk to school because of how fast people fly down that road. It just doesn't seem safe, even with the sidewalks.
Jane Patla Tanner June 23, 2011 at 07:06 PM
What a great piece of geographic information about a 'continental divide'. That would make a great piece for the Patch! Regarding your point about the congestion, according to the computer models using actual traffic numbers from Chamblee-Tucker at peak times, and stats from actual diets that have been installed all over the country (google Road Diet and you can see some wonderful working examples) this design will regulate the speed/flow of traffic by having 1 lane of traffic instead of 'racing lanes', thus eliminating the high accident rate while keeping the 'thru car times' within 2-3 minutes of the current configuration. It is a matter of 'fact over feeling' and has been proven throughout the country. Regarding your point about it being a done deal - the design is complete, the funding has yet to be found, and the support has yet to be fully heard. I hope that helps to answer your concerns. Jane
Jane Patla Tanner June 23, 2011 at 07:29 PM
With the 'diet', there will be a left turn signal installed along with the designated left hand turn lane at the Livsey School light which will make the morning traffic situation much smoother and safer for all modes of transportation through that corridor. The computer models as well as current applications show the flow to be smoother, safer, and the travel time to be within 2-4 minutes of the current configuration. The new lane configuration will slow the traffic as there will be a single lane of traffic in each direction. Instead of 'racing lanes', the traffic speed can be 'calmed' by a single car. It will also narrow the lanes, and statistics show that the narrower the lane the slower the traffic. Your question was how will it slow people down when it's not a high traffic time - if there isn't any traffic, as on any road, there is the potential of having a single individual drive at a high rate of speed. However, by eliminating the 'racing lane' configuration, it will take a minimal amount of traffic on the road to control the flow and the narrowing of the lanes will help as well. As you are driving around town, notice the lane configurations, lane width, and flow of traffic. There are great examples of these newer designs in the Decatur and intown neighborhoods, as well as in Roswell and areas of Gwinnett County. I hope that helps to answer your concerns. Jane
Tommy Lupo June 23, 2011 at 07:42 PM
A road diet actually increases the flow of traffic, as well as makes it safer. The two center lanes, as it is striped currently, are acting against each other on turns. When cars try to turn, they block the flow in those lanes rendering them useless. A center turn lane corrects this situation. Also, the addition room used for bike lanes creates buffers to pedestrians on the sidewalks. The safer situations may encourage more people to walk or ride bikes for errands in the area, as well, thus reducing car traffic even more.
Jane Patla Tanner June 23, 2011 at 07:42 PM
Here is a question/answer from the DeKalb DOT, similar to yours. Jane QUESTION: The road was widened from two lanes to four lanes years ago because of traffic volumes. Why would reducing back to two lanes now be a good thing? ANSWER: The road diet cross-section is actually different than that of a standard two-lane roadway. On a two-lane facility, it is common for through traffic to stop behind a left-turning vehicle as it waits for a gap in the oncoming traffic to turn left. This causes significant delay when there is a large volume of left-turning or opposing through traffic. The road diet removes the left-turning traffic from the travel lane, which allows the other traffic to continue moving while the left-turning vehicle waits for a gap in the on-coming traffic. Because of the frequent volume of left turns along the Chamblee-Tucker Road corridor combined with many driveways, the inside travel lanes can be underutilized because people do not want to be delayed behind left-turning traffic. Additionally, when vehicles do travel in the inside lanes and approach someone turning left, they often abruptly change lanes to avoid delay. This can create angle/sideswipe collisions between the vehicle changing lanes (and someone in the outside lane) or a rear-end collision between the left-turning vehicle (and someone traveling at high speeds behind them). The road-diet cross-section has the ability to reduce these types of collisions.
Robert Rosentreter June 23, 2011 at 08:09 PM
Make sure you leave four lanes near QT (AM) and Tucker Animal Hospital (PM) or their rush hour backups will be even worse than now. Having said that, I cheer the cops when they nab speeders on that road.
Joseph June 23, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Cadence, I'm sorry but the traffic calming structures are the correct decision. The problem with those is they are poorly constructed. The idea is correct though. As for your comment about traffic being unimaginable it is simply not true. There is tons of science and data that prove that road diets are quite effective. Also, keeping a police presence on the speedway is not financial feasible. You would waste both money and time. Time that the officer could use to patrol.
Dee Browning June 23, 2011 at 11:49 PM
I'm pretty sure more lights won't help... I've seen numerous occasions where drivers completely ignore the light at Livsey school. I always wait until both lanes in either direction completely stop before I pull onto C-T...
Anita June 28, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Safety is our #1 priority!
carol stevens June 28, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I need more explanation about why cutting out a lane on the road will not cause worse traffic rather than making it better.
Jane Patla Tanner June 28, 2011 at 09:54 PM
I know, it does seem counter-intuitive. Here is a great video that explains what a Road Diet is, gives a bunch of examples, as well as the safety and economic implications: http://www.streetfilms.org/mba-road-diet/ There are many examples of Road Diet projects in the Atlanta area. We'll post some locations on the Chamblee-Tucker Road Project Facebook page. Drive them and see what you think.
Jane Patla Tanner June 28, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Regarding the Lavista Rd. and QT intersections - these are to remain as they are currently designed, with the Diet transitioning in to allow for the AM/PM traffic flow while keeping the residential flow safer to navigate.
Karyn June 29, 2011 at 12:32 PM
I went to the Public Meeting a few years ago at Livsey for the Road Diet. I think I was one of about 3 people in favor with a slew of our "original owner" neighbors saying that they'd never be able to turn out of their neighborhoods if there was only one lane of traffic. I understand why it's confusing that cutting through lanes can make traffic flow better. But it really makes sense when you think about the turning traffic and not having to slow or shift around turning cars. The safety benefit really sells it for me.
Lori Laliberte-Carey June 29, 2011 at 10:14 PM
I for one am ready for a center turn lane. I do not like hearing the screech of tires behind me as someone tries to brake while I am waiting for an opening to turn left. I've seen someone get rear ended right in front of Livsey while waiting to turn onto Smithsonia because the driver came up on her too fast. Do we need to contact anyone to improve the chance for funding the road diet?
Jen McKillop June 29, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Regrettably I just got off the phone with 911. A car was making a legal left hand turn onto North Park off Chamblee Tucker, a lawn service vehicle was behind him and was struck by a white panel van that came around the blind turn too quickly to stop. As I was out washing my dogs the horrible sound of yet another crash interrupted an otherwise lovely late afternoon in the yard. This is madness and needs a real solution. Thankfully there were no obvious injuries this time. If you have thoughts please join the Face Book Page entitled Chamblee-Tucker Road Project to be sure to receive all updates and to show your support. Some pictures of the latest accident were just posted. Thanks for caring, Jen McKillop
Jen McKillop June 29, 2011 at 11:05 PM
Lori thanks for your reply and concern. We are working on an exact plan of action to ensure we contact the correct people with the correct information. We will be posting details in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you utilize Face Book you can join the Face Book Page entitled Chamblee-Tucker Road Project. Feel free to keep my contact information as well - jennifer@PromoMomma.com and my cell 404-431-7249. Thanks - Jen
Lori Laliberte-Carey July 07, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Yes, this is exactly the situation the center lane will remedy. The turn lane will give residents a safe place to wait for an opening in traffic and a safe lane to pull into before merging. So Carol, the volume will be heavy, it always is, but entering and exiting will be safer. And with turners in the center lane, rather than a travel lane, the flow will be smoother and more consistent. This efficiency in flow will make up for the reduction in lanes. Really, really!

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