Public forum reveals mixed feelings about MLK Blvd. changes - WRBL

Public forum reveals mixed feelings about MLK Blvd. changes

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Columbus residents met with city officials Monday evening to discuss proposed changes to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, but there are many questions left to be answered.

Last year the planning department unveiled a streetscape design to beautify MLK. Now they're asking the public's opinion, but the response is a little more divided than they were expecting.

The forum focused on whether to keep the boulevard a four-lane street or condense it to three with room for a multipurpose lane for bikes and pedestrians. Planning director Rick Jones says, "I don't think we'll go wrong either way, whether it be four-lane or three-lane here. In the long run I think we'll have what we're all trying to accomplish."

The city already has $4 million set aside for resurfacing MLK, so they want to decide how to stripe the street. The entire beautification project will cost $13 million. They're is still looking for grant money for the rest.

Groups like Turn Around Columbus and the Young Minority Leaders have been working with the planning department to make MLK a street worthy of its title with heritage parks and historic information plaques. "I'm hoping the outcome of all this is that Martin Luther King become an outdoor learning center," says Turn Around Columbus CEO Roznell Buckner.

They support the three-lane idea, encouraging people to slow down and enjoy the scenery, but city councilman Bruce Huff says there's just too much traffic.

"The three-lane approach is good in most situations," says Huff. "In this situation, we have an opportunity to have everything on the plan minus one or two things."

"There's a lot of traffic there, and when they change it to a two-lane or a three-lane, it's going to be a real problem," says local business owner Verray Caldwell. "I work on the street. I know, and as far as the bicycle lane is concerned, we've got four bicycles on that street."

He says before the city decides to beautify the area, they need to do something about crime. He's had four vehicles stolen from his property and says right now it's not a safe neighborhood for visitors.

Another concern raised at the meeting was railroad traffic. Currently many residents say they take alternate routes to avoid the train, but Huff says that will be changing by 2019, when the city is slated to finish work on a project to rework the train tracks around busy intersections. That, he says, will increase traffic immensely.

Jones says, however, "It will be addressed, and more than likely it'll be addressed way ahead of dealing with anything on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard."

If you missed the first meeting, you can still voice your opinion. There will be another public hearing Thursday at Lewis Memorial Baptist Church at 1022 Adair Avenue from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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