Monroe officials address traffic and accident issues on MLK Jr. Blvd. near Chick-Fil-A

The intersection of West Spring Street and Martin Luther King Blvd. (SR 138) in Monroe, Ga. Photo credit: Sharon Swanepoel for Walton Living Magazine.

MONROE, GA (Oct. 23, 2023) – The traffic on Highway 138 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.) in Monroe near the Chick-Fil-A entrance has long been the cause of concern and frustration for motorists who routinely travel that stretch of road. More recent additional traffic loads as a result of the Monroe Area High School, the Monroe Pavilion and Starbucks next to Chick-fil-A have only increased the concerns, and the frustration.

Add to that the many accidents over the years, and last weeks fatal motorcycle accident that cost the life of a 73-year-old Walton County man, and Monroe city officials have had many people contacting them asking that something be done about it.

While It is hoped that last week’s opening of the new ramp to Highway 78 at the end of W. Spring Street will help by getting some of the traffic off that stretch of road, officials felt the need to address the situation.

Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes released the following statement on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023, putting together some of the history of as well of future plans for that stretch of road.

Many of us who frequent the area of Highway 138 (Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd) near the Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, and Walmart ingress and egress points know that it is a highly congested area where caution must be observed. There have been many motor vehicle accidents here over the past 10+ years. The city is aware of these issues and has been pursuing an avenue for improvements with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

A common question we at the City receive is, “Why did the city allow the Starbucks to build next to the Chick-fil-a using the same driveway.” The answer is a bit more complicated. When the Chick-fil-a was built in 2008, it was planned for a couple of years before and the store’s entry points were likely based on 2005-2007 data for traffic volumes. The success of the Chick-fil-a, along with increased traffic volumes, were likely never anticipated to be at the current levels. As you know, the area and traffic in general on Hwy 138 has grown tremendously since that time.

Additionally, Chick-fil-a does not actually own the joint entranceway on Hwy 138. It is owned by the corporation that owns the Starbucks building and was previously was owned by another entity. Chick-fil-a is located in the Paradise Shoppes of Monroe shopping center. The shopping center established a private access easement with the Starbucks property before the Chick-fil-a and Starbucks were ever built. Due to this condition, and the fact that the Starbucks property was already previously zoned by-right for such as a business, the city had virtually no legal ability to prevent another store from opening on the property.

The City of Monroe has been working with our team of engineers for many months to push the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to create some better safety designs for this area of Highway 138. In fact, there is now a planned intersection improvement (PI 0019642) that is in concept design and engineering with GDOT that runs from Michael Etchison Rd to the eastbound onramp off Hwy 138. What these plans will look like in final form, we do not yet know, but we are working to try to incorporate as many safety improvements as possible through this high-volume area.

One item that is highly unlikely in the planned project is another traffic signal at Walmart and Chick-fil-a/Starbucks. A traffic signal here is far too close to the main traffic signal with West Spring St. (SR 10 Business) and would affect the stacking of the turn lanes on Hwy 138. Traffic signals themselves are not always the answer anyway and if not designed properly, can actually create a poorer safety environment along with more traffic jams on the other nearby streets. Creating a “no left turn” area here is also problematic in many ways as egress is further complicated from the entire shopping center due to the divided lanes of West Spring St. on the other end. However, this element is also being studied and will depend on GDOT’s approvals.

Traffic alleviation and flow in this general area is a top concern with the City of Monroe. The construction of the eastbound on-ramp, the forthcoming westbound on-ramp, the previously installed dual-thru lanes on West Spring St. with extended turn lane, this planned GDOT project on Hwy 138, and a few more eventual area roadway improvements all should combine to enhance safety and alleviate traffic backups to the extent possible. The bottom line is there are approximately 23,000 vehicles per day that pass by this intersection in question. Drivers need to have patience, slow down, and drive aware.

Monroe City Administrator Logan Propes

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