by David Benoit
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but I want to drill it home because this kind of stuff excites me.
Where is the most ferocious length of river in the State of Georgia? Some will tell you it’s in the mountains, but I contend that it’s right here in the City of Atlanta. The Downtown Connector, that is. It may not be the body of water that first comes to mind, but it is indeed a river. The vast stretch of highway separates the city into two very discernible sections. Our feelings about either side of The Connector tend to depend on where we’re from or where we live.
The City of Atlanta and the urban central improvement districts, Midtown Alliance and Central Atlanta Progress, are hoping to change our misconceptions about the bridges that span the width of the river. This year, 2015, the forces that be will begin to beautify, sanctify, and legitimize the bridges—those monolithic development impediments that the Georgia Department of Transportation has deemed worthy of transportation but unworthy of any architectural integrity. And please note, the State of Georgia recently assumed the dubious honor of having the least integrity of any state in the union by the Center for Public Integrity. Go figure.
The interstate system, personally speaking, is an embarrassment to the City of Atlanta. Only those swayed by the money of General Motors and Standard Oil would ever consider the construction of three major interstates converging in a city’s center. If the description alone doesn’t smack of corruption, I don’t know what does.
There are approximately 500,000 vehicles a day passing through our fair city. Imagine if they had to stop and buy something. How’s that for economic development? However, the Georgia Department of Transportation says “No way! Keep the cars moving! We need to keep the cars moving!” (Cars, not people. Notice the difference?) There are approximately 6,996,000 square feet of heat-inducing pavement in that pit of fumes and 1.9 billion, with a “b,” gallons of storm water runoff per year. And to think we were in a drought for eight years in the early 2000s.
But I’m moving away from the reason why I’m writing this article in the first place… back to the beautification.
The State of Georgia, in all its infinite wisdom, has decided that now is the time to strike, and it’s moving forward with the beautification of three bridges. The first is the Peachtree Street Bridge that crosses the connector downtown, right next to the “Mayor’s #1 Park.” The second downtown bridge getting a makeover is the Courtland Street Bridge. The third and fourth bridges to get State love are the 10th Street Bridge and the North Avenue Bridge, on the side of Georgia Tech. Speaking of Georgia Tech, if it were up to me, every bridge would have the investment that the 5th Street Bridge has. The view across doesn’t allow pedestrians even to consider that they have intersected a roadway with enough particulate matter to render a herd of buffalo asthmatic. And thank god there aren’t any buffalo in this city, only people.
Now what is this makeover I speak of? Simply put: the makeover is a series of light emitting diodes (LED) and architectural retrofit that would render an ordinary Georgia Department of Transportation creation into a beautiful and unique snow flake. Having read the actual presentation, yet not going to any public meetings to weigh in or obtain any further information. From what I gather, this gateway beautification process will be the first step in a series of efforts by the powers that be to welcome people into our fair City, spend their money, then return to their native habitats only to expound the wonderment that they beheld the day they saw Atlanta.
So grab your moonwalking shoes and get ready to slide across a laser-light sidewalk that’ll have you twittering and instagram-ing like a teen high on overly sugared bubble gum with a fresh new iPhone in your hand.
Oh, and the total price thus far: a cool $10 million. In the grand scheme of it all, that’s not a bad price to get some good going.