Turn lane removal irks city, residents

ATLANTA - It was a change that puzzled motorists who drive through here each day.

"I don't think it was well thought out, how they were going to reroute the traffic," said Natasha Sands, who goes to school at the AU Center and works an internship downtown.

She's talking about the elimination of a turn lane on Northside Drive. It's a neighborhood gripe that critics say highlights a heartless bureaucracy.

The new configuration is now the inspiration behind countless improvised routes around it. Some of them are U-turns. Some take motorists through parking lots. We saw several that concluded in the company of an Atlanta police officer, blue lights flashing behind the motorist trying to negotiate a work-around..

"Nobody can actually make a turn where they need to," said Robert McMichael, a motorist who traverses the intersection regularly.

The change eliminates the left turn from Northside Drive northbound —to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive westbound.

"As a regular drive, I just have to make my daily commute around it every day," said Sands. "Which is pretty disheartening, to take that extra five or ten minutes to have to go through detours and turn around and do U-turns and all of that."

Curiously, those who redesigned the turn lane kept the one in the opposite direction -- which steers motorists into a construction site. "Why would you continue to allow people to turn into the construction site versus away from it?" Sands asked.

Northside Drive is a state highway. A spokesman for the DOT said he was checking into our query as to why the state eliminated the turn lane.

"I thought perhaps some body at DOT had made a mistake," said city councilman Michael Julian Bond, who lives nearby. Bond said he later learned from city workers that the change was the deliberative work of traffic engineers.

"I personally have been pulled over by the Atlanta police department five times -- my act of civil disobedience -- for not acknowledging this (eliminated) left turn," Bond said.

Bond sponsored a resolution, passed by the Atlanta city council, requesting the DOT to restore the turn lane.


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