Woodruff Circle realignment project to improve access, safety and aesthetics

By Kay Torrance | Emory Report | May 11, 2012

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Construction begins in mid-May on a major project that will improve the traffic flow of shuttle buses and cars, enhance pedestrian access and improve safety throughout the area.

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Construction and renovation beginning after Commencement and continuing through the summer will improve shuttle access to Woodruff Circle, enhance safety for both vehicles and pedestrians, and improve the aesthetics of the overall area.

In the first phase of a project that has been in planning for five years, construction crews will fashion a pick-up/drop-off area for non-shuttle traffic between the Dobbs University Center and the James B. Williams Medical Education Building.

Next, the renovation of Woodruff Circle will begin. It will become a true circle (see drawing), with a consolidated entry and exit to and from Clifton Road that has its own traffic light that aligns with Uppergate Drive. Woodruff Circle will be restricted to shuttle buses and delivery trucks only. In addition to accommodating all previous Woodruff Circle shuttles, the new circle will accommodate all shuttles that currently drop off on Means Street.

These and other changes will promote better traffic flow of buses, cars and pedestrians, says Charlie Andrews, senior vice president of space planning and construction for the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

A new traffic light and crosswalk at Woodruff Circle, which will replace the light and crosswalk at Clinic A and Emory University Hospital (EUH), will allow walkers to cross the street safely. A left-hand turn lane will be added to Woodruff Circle to ease exit and in each direction on Clifton Road to ease entry for shuttle buses. In addition, sidewalks on each side of Clifton Road will be pulled back farther from the road, with a 4-foot planting strip serving as buffer.

Meanwhile, bus shelters inside Woodruff Circle will be updated to provide more protection from the elements, and planters and bollards (short vertical posts) will be added to help separate pedestrians from shuttle buses. New lampposts also will be added.

The project will include a new ADA-access sidewalk that leads directly from Woodruff Circle to the new intersection at Uppergate. The current MARTA stop will be relocated to the Uppergate intersection as well.

The project will increase "impervious" surfaces by 9 percent. Twenty-six trees (see sidebar) will be removed from the Woodruff Circle area and EUH front lawn, and 90 trees, all native species, will be replanted in these areas, in accordance with Emory's tree canopy policy, says Campus Services Capital Planner Steve Lange. The area within the Woodruff Circle itself will be restored to natural woodlands, with no mowing required. 

The Woodruff Circle area also will be landscaped and graded to draw the eye to the front of the Woodruff Memorial Building, says Andrews. "This 350,000-square-foot building is the largest research building on campus," he says, "and we're excited about this opportunity to help showcase this building more."

He adds, "We are very aware of the researchers and other people working in this area, and we will do everything possible to minimize noise and other disruptions during this construction."

The project is expected to be completed this fall.