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Blueprint America special report: Dangerous crossing

This week, the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan watchdog group, issued a report saying it had discovered more than $6 billion in federal transportation funding that has not actually been spent.

These unused pots of money, allocated by Congress for local projects, are called “disappearmarks.” The discrepancy is significant, since the nation’s transportation infrastructure needs an upgrade, and the taxpayers’ money was appropriated for that very purpose.

Need to Know teamed up with Blueprint America to check in with residents of an Atlanta suburb where a highway dividing the town makes pedestrian safety a major concern. Local officials there say they could put those “disappearmarks” to good use.

Blueprint America’s Tom McNamara took a closer look at those “disappearmarks” in a post for Need to Know, which you can find here.


  • Doug S.

    OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!! Is everyone involved on the government side of this story so blind to the obvious solution here?? BUILDING BRIDGES OVER/TUNNELS UNDER THE HIGHWAY HAS GOT TO BE CHEAPER THAN REDESIGNING THE ENTIRE HIGHWAY!!!!!!! I apologize for shouting.

  • meredith

    Why is the obesity problem not linked to this proplem? Where is the First Lady on this issue? If walking and biking are safe and inexpensive, poor people could have mobility and less health problems associated with weight gain.

  • Kelley

    I am so glad to see someone bring some attention to the plight of those who cannot (for whatever reason) own, maintain, insure, and operate a car. Our infrastructure has been built exclusively for the car-drivers. Those who don’t have cars of who don’t have enough cars (somewhere close to one car per family member) are marginalized and forgotten.

    And, bicyclists deserve some attention in addition to pedestrians.

  • Annie

    As soon as I saw this piece I thought about building several walking bridges over Buford Highway for the pedestrians. That seems like a fairly simple solution, and it would be safe. People who own cars act like they have full entitlement to every road they drive on and look out whoever or whatever gets in their way! Good program last night. I especially enjoyed this piece and the one about the Sage Grouse.

  • Alaska

    So happy to read that other viewers suggest pedestrian bridges over highways as the answer to Atlanta’s speeding cars. Check out the Arthur Fielder pedestrian bridge over Storrow Drive in Boston. It’s designed for people to ride bikes or roller skate over the high traffic road. Even baby carriages and wheel chairs can cross the road safely. No stairs, just a beautifully designed swirl of well designed concrete.

  • PEDS (Bridges a Bad Idea)

    Bridges? Many people suggest building pedestrian bridges over roadways like Buford Hwy. Problem is, people need to cross Buford Hwy in MANY locations — every 300 feet or so. Every bus stop represents a location where people need to cross. Building bridges to accommodate that kind of foot traffic would be impractical and wildly expensive. The spiral or zig-zag ramps (ADA accessible) required to get people up to the bridge level would require a large footprint — meaning the the DOT would need to buy up expensive right of way. More importantly, people DON’T USE pedestrian bridges in this context — where there are no physical barriers to prevent them from crossing the road. Another commenter mentioned the Arthur Fiedler Bridge in Boston. It has physical barriers at the street level to force pedestrians over the bridge. Las Vegas makes good use of pedestrian bridges, connecting hotels above street level with destinations above street level. Honestly, Buford Highway is no place for pedestrian bridges. For a start, it need sidewalks. Then it needs a median where the center turn lane currently exists. Replacing the center turn lane with a median would enable pedestrians to cross almost anywhere more safely. Obviously, the median would need breaks in it for left-turning drivers. The plan GDOT has is actually good. Implementation is the problem.

  • Jon Morgan

    Need sidewalks, bike lanes, signalized crosswalks, fewer car lanes, median/refuge islands, buildings closer to the street, lower speed limits (by physical design, not just useless signs). Georgia needs a complete streets policy; they clearly put minimal priority on walking or biking. Ideally you need an urban street grid which is inherently safer and more efficient. Pedestrian overpasses and underpasses are much more expensive, make the streetscape even worse, speed up the cars, and send a signal that the street is only for cars while pedestrians belong in segregated spaces away from it.

  • Ed-M

    It has been proven that a four-lane divided highway with roundabouts can carry more traffic than a six-lane highway with traffic lights. Replace all the traffic lights with roundabouts, remove the curb lane in each direction (except turnouts for the bus stops), replace the center lane with a grassy curbed median, provide crosswalks at each bus stop, and rezone for better and higher (mixed) use of the adjacent land so that a light railway can be installed in the future.

  • johan

    I am well familiar with this stretch of land and with Buford, GA. I have friends who live in neighboring Norcross, GA. It has a huge poor illegal immigration population and they are not able to obtain cars and provide proper documentation for a legal driver’s license.

    By the way, if you choose to cross in the middle of major traffic, you are taking your life into your hands. I was taught as a young child to cross at the traffic light- even if I had to go out of my way to do so.

  • Frederica Bimble

    I gotta say that I’m not watching this for the reason it is meant to be watched. I’m watching it because I have been living in the UK for 11 years and this just reminds me of being near my mother’s home way out in the country – roads like these are all over America and they’re unique to the US. We, here in the UK, don’t have these sorts of roads because the country is so tiny. I don’t miss the roads but it is strange here when you are crossing the road and everyone stops to let you pass. When I first moved here, I was shocked but I’m now used to motorists stopping to let people cross.

  • Robert Seidler

    Simple steps to improve this issue nationally would be #1 when addressing LOS Level of Service for roadways the cars must first be full of people not just SOVs Single occupancy vehicles. #2 Forever change Highway to Humanway and give rights first to the humans. Devises like cars and trucks are operated by Humans too but would have to GIVE WAY properly to other less protected users. We have attitudinal issues more than facility based ones. Six lane roads are traffic sewers and function as such. The good thing is that six lane roads offer ROW right of ways that can be redeveloped. Scale this roadway down to 4 and add bike/bus lanes, roundabouts and sidewalks. Lightrail too could be incorporated into this ROW as another option. The rule of Car-nation is coming to a close as car-nage and car-casses fill the streets, pedigate and bikeigate now should work with navigate–Where did navigate come from anyway? Time to thing about our ways to get about better and more afforably. Time is running out.

  • Sally Flocks

    In areas with a large number of pedestrians, transportation agencies need to rethink the way they set speed limits. The current method — which assumes the speed that 85 percent of drivers are traveling is the safest speed — ignores the safety of people on foot. If transportation agencies treated pedestrians as equals and considered the speed at which they travel as part of the equation, “85th percentile speed” would plummet on Buford Highway. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has called on transportation agencies to treat all modes of transportation as equals. Developing a new method of determining speed limits is a critical step toward achieving that.

  • Steve Kullman

    I say quit whining and do something. Join your local bike & pedestrian movement. Add your name and vote towards those that want more sidewalks, busses, bike lanes and other non-motorized enhancements.

    The fixes are not impossible or unknown – they are just alternate engineering choices. What is expensive is the wrath of the motorist. It takes a strong politician and City Engineer to spend a significant amount of money on “frivolous” items like bike lanes and cross walks.

    So you do not have to know how to fix the problem but you need to get your local politicians, boards and commissions to lead the way and you have to support them against the backlash.

    A proud member of

  • Transportation For America » Blueprint America on complete streets in Atlanta

    [...] yourself a favor and check out this short video from PBS’ Blueprint America series that aired on the program “Need to Know” [...]

  • jason

    actually doug s., building a bridge is much more expensive than a traffic engineer and a paint crew.

  • PEDS » Blog Archive » PBS Features PEDS’ Concerns on Buford Highway

    [...] can also see this video on the Need to Know website along with comments from other [...]

  • Greg Macfarlane

    Bridges and tunnels are very expensive, and they often contribute to crime, lowered property values, and are not wheelchair/stroller/bicycle accessible.

    It’s okay to slow down when you are driving, and to drive by a pedestrian in the crosswalk is illegal.

  • Jacqueline Haessly

    I am reminded of the new roadway in a near-by village that offers NO safe crossing for elders who live in senior housing to access the library directly across the street from their complex. Many of these seniors use walkers and wheelchairs, while others just walk more slowly than others. All efforts to address these challenges BEFORE the road was completed were rejected, and so the library, which could enrich the lives of these seniors by offering access to the abundance of books, book clubs, social and education functions, goes unused by most of them. When will we ever learn?

  • Short Documentary on Pedestrians and Buford Highway

    [...] Metro & Creative Loafing both linked to this video excerpt from a PBS documentary, showing how dangerous Buford Highway can be for pedestrians. There is a brief clip of Chief King, [...]

  • Rod

    If PBS or the city engineers in Georgia are reading these comments, please explain to all of us who are writting comments the reason(s) you can’t build pedestrian bridges over the highways. Please make the comment to us here soon so we all will not continue to think that you all are the dumbmest engineers and city planners ever to exist.

  • RH

    As a Traffic Engineer, I would suggest that anyone trying this manuver be cited for child endangerment. Try crossing a little further up the hill so that a clear line of sight can be seen for both directions of travel. I see this daily, people believe they have the right to cross a road at any place they feel they should. Im not advocating anything against pedestrians or people that ride bikes, they just need to use a little common sense. Which in this photo appears to a total lack of. Roads are Designed for vehicles to move people and goods and services along specific routes, however, in local residential areas more attention should be given to pedestrians. With that said, pedestrians are just as responsible for obeying the rules of the road as vehicles are required. Marked crosswalks with advanced Pedestrian signs could, and maybe an advanced flashing ped sign would help this situation. If more Ped traffic is anticipated a Hawk Signal would enhance the safety of the ped movement. Oh BTW, Ped overpasses is a great idea, all you have to do is buy all the available land to accomodate the construction, pay for utility relocations and provide a direct path to the overpass so that everyone will not have the ability to by-pass the facility. I would say pony up about 500K + per installation. Everyone has that in their back pocket. Can we say splost tax or other city/county or state funding taxes. As you can see, everyone has a great idea, but its not as simple as going to the local wal-mart. It takes planning ( knowing where the most peds cross) land availability and last but not least funding. Funding Funding Funding. Traffic Engineers have great ideas, however, we do not have the final say, ask your local City/County Administrator. They are the ones who hold the purse strings. As a Civil Engineer, all we have control over is the recommendation. Hope this helps you with the question if we a completly ignorant.

  • Max

    “OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!! Is everyone involved on the government side of this story so blind to the obvious solution here?? BUILDING BRIDGES OVER/TUNNELS UNDER THE HIGHWAY HAS GOT TO BE CHEAPER THAN REDESIGNING THE ENTIRE HIGHWAY!!!!!!! I apologize for shouting.”

    Studies have shown that people will forgo the bridges and tunnels (tunnels are pretty expensive IIRC) and cross the street anyway. Not to mention the fact you would need lots of bridges since people need to cross at several points. Re-designing the street makes much more sense.