Proposed design changes to Dunwoody’s Mount Vernon Road between Corners Drive and Mount Vernon Place are raising concerns about pedestrian safety and right of way issues for property owners along the road. 

The City Council heard three possible options for the design at a Feb. 8 meeting. 

That section of Mount Vernon Road does not have a sidewalk on the south side and has an older, 4-foot-wide sidewalk on the north side, said Public Works Director Michael Smith. The three design proposals each include adding a 12-foot-wide multiuse path on the north side of the street and a sidewalk to the south. The three designs also include an on-street bike lane.

The first proposal would have left-turn lanes added at Vernon Lake Drive, Stratham Drive and Meadowlake Drive. A center turn lane and pedestrian island would be added between Vernon Lake Drive and Forest Springs Drive, and an existing extra westbound lane at Forest Springs Drive would be changed to a shorter right-turn lane. 

An aerial map of the first proposal for changes to Mount Vernon Road, which would add left-turn lanes at Vernon Lake Drive, Stratham Drive and Meadowlake Drive.

The second proposal would be similar to the first, but two existing westbound lanes between Forest Springs Drive and Mount Vernon Place would be converted to a through lane and center turn lane with a landscaped median. That proposal would not only provide left-turn lanes for side streets, but also space for cars turning left into residences along Mount Vernon Road.

An aerial map of the second proposal for changes to Mount Vernon Road, which would convert existing lanes to a through lane and center turn lane.

The third proposal would keep the existing lane set-up as it is and widen the shoulder on the north and south side of the road to accommodate the path and sidewalk. That design proposal would not allow for improved pedestrian island crossings. 

An aerial map of the third proposal for changes to Mount Vernon Road, which would widen the shoulder on the north and south side of the road.

At a virtual public input meeting for the project held in October of last year, residents who attended ranked proposals one and two more favorably than proposal three. 

“Options one and two received strong support, with two-thirds of the responses either supporting or partially supporting one of those alternatives,” Smith said. “And then about two-thirds of the responses were either neutral or not supportive of alternative three.” 

Smith said of the responses they received from the public meeting, about 50% ranked left-turn lanes in their top two priorities for improvements to the road, while about 40% ranked adding a sidewalk on the south side of the road. Bicycle accommodations, improved pedestrian crossings, and a better north sidewalk were each ranked as a top-two priority by about 30% of responses. 

An illustration of the first proposal for changes to Mount Vernon Road, situated looking west at Meadowlake Drive.

The council did not come to a consensus on which of the three proposals it preferred, but many members agreed the design plan should focus on the safety of pedestrians over easing travel time for commuters. 

“I believe that safety should be the number one overarching priority, focusing on traffic calming, slowing speeds, improving pedestrian and bicycle facilities … versus helping those motor vehicle operators getting to their destination,” said Councilmember Joe Seconder. 

Councilmember Stacey Harris asked how much property owners along Mount Vernon Road would be affected by the project. 

“Is it a temporary right of way easement, or do we actually have to go onto people’s property?” she asked.

Smith said for options one and two, five properties would need to give up a “sliver” of right of way to build a new sidewalk, but the city would only need temporary easements for the 21 other properties while building the project. Option three would require two homes to give up some right of way and only require 13 temporary easements. 

Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she did not think the council would be ready to make a decision on the design proposals by the next presentation. She asked city staff members to come back with more knowledge about right of way issues that might arise with sidewalks and private residences along Mount Vernon Road, and to think about how the project respectfully could fit within the residential section of the corridor. 

“It would be interesting for us to understand … what right of way impediments are we facing,” Deustch said. “I’m a believer that you could have a multi-purpose trail that narrows in places and is as wide as you want in other places where it’s practical.”

Smith did not say when the project would be back before the council for design approval.