Marietta council reverses course, cancels one-way plans for Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue

·4 min read

Jun. 10—The eight-week long fight over whether to make portions of Lawrence Street and Washington Avenue one-way was settled Wednesday night as the Marietta City Council voted to keep two-way traffic on the streets, for the time being.

A recommendation to overturn the one-way plan passed 5-1-1 with Reggie Copeland opposed, Michelle Cooper Kelly abstaining and the rest of the council in support. The council had last September passed a plan to make Lawrence one-way going westbound and Washington one-way going eastbound between Fairground and Cole streets. The council had also approved adding speed tables and driver feedback signs to the streets and will keep those measures.

News of the one-way plan evidently didn't reach all residents and business owners in the area until recently, and many voiced their opposition at meetings in recent weeks. Supporters of the plan have been just as dogged, but in the end, were unsuccessful.

The council does plan, however, to review the matter a year from now to see if the other traffic calming measures have been effective.

The recommendation on the agenda was to cancel the previously approved plan to make Lawrence and Washington one-way. Copeland, whose ward contains the affected area, made a substitute recommendation to keep the one-way plan. That recommendation failed without any support, and the original one passed.

Public comment

Residents spoke to the issue at the start of the meeting. Lawrence Street resident Robin McClelland argued that making the streets one-way was a less invasive, quicker and cheaper way to address pedestrian safety. Unlike widening the street and sidewalks and keeping two-way traffic, it wouldn't require purchasing property through eminent domain, as has been floated by council members.

Cristina Stallworth, who lives off Lawrence, displayed a photo of herself walking with a friend and pushing a stroller to demonstrate how close the road is to pedestrians. Stallworth said she bought an extra, smaller stroller to give herself more space from the road while walking. Copeland later displayed a photo of two pickup trucks passing each other, their mirrors inches apart.

Steve Woodman, a lawyer whose office is in the area, has spearheaded opposition to the one-way plan. Woodman canvassed businesses and houses and said he collected a petition of about 250 signatures in opposition to one-way. He repeated his argument that one-way streets lead to faster, not slower, traffic speeds. He did, however, endorse Copeland's idea to have police enforce speeding on the two streets.

Copeland has repeatedly said the issue should have never been reconsidered since council approved it unanimously last year.

"We made a decision 3-0, then we made the decision 7-0, and then some high-powered lawyers started complaining, and that's when it changed," Copeland said.

Some council members have said they would not have voted in favor of the plan had they known there was so much opposition. Copeland told council before the original plan was passed that nobody opposed the one-way. Council members have said perhaps the plan wasn't well communicated initially.

Ticketing speeders still an option

There's still a chance that Lawrence and Washington could see a heightened police presence. Copeland had also asked the council to approve radar speeding enforcement on the two streets. The city would need approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation to do so.

Instead, Grif Chalfant wanted to send the issue back to the Public Works Committee, which he chairs, so the council could consider a larger, more comprehensive list of neighborhood streets where speeding could be enforced. Council approved sending the issue back to committee 6-1, with Copeland opposed.

Most of the pro-one-way crowd left the meeting after council nixed the one-way plan. But one, Lawrence Street resident Jesse Bonner, Jr., lamented the action.

"I'm just disappointed in the process, disappointed in the some of the pettiness that's gone on in this whole thing," he said. "You know, you think about running for office and things like that but, I don't know, I'm just disappointed the way it all turned out."

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