Georgia Department of Transportation Design Engineer Albert Shelby explains the design concept for the new interchange at I-285 and Roswell Road during a July 2002 public meeting.

SSRI Marketing Communications provided regular community updates on the progress of project design through the community web site, e-mail network, and special mailings to affected businesses.

Roswell Road at I-285 Interchange Redesign

Project Summary for the Community Web Site -- July 2002

 

The interchange at I-285 and Roswell Road -- it’s both our greatest asset and our greatest challenge.  For over three decades, this portal to Sandy Springs has introduced families to a suburban lifestyle unmatched in the Atlanta region, and has brought economic opportunity and prosperity for the businesses that have chosen to locate along Roswell Road.

 

But these days the interchange is starting to show its age. While recent community and County efforts to improve its appearance are succeeding, the interchange is blamed as the major cause of congestion and delays all up and down the Roswell Road business corridor. From early morning through midday to evening rush hour, local and regional traffic stacks up, immobilized for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Meanwhile pedestrians trying to walk from residential areas on the south to shopping destinations on the north play a dangerous game as they wend their way across the car-choked bridge.

 

According to Georgia Department of Transportation Project Designer Albert Shelby, the main problem is the lack of “storage capacity” on the I-285 ramps and in the left turn lanes on Roswell Road. On a traffic engineer’s scale of “A” which represents “free flowing”, to “F” for “getting nowhere fast”, this interchange rates an “F” in GDOT’s book or anybody’s book.

 

Concept Design

Now the interchange is being redesigned from stem to stern, including a brand new bridge over I-285, dual left turn lanes in each direction and major operational improvements. “This is the biggest road project to hit Sandy Springs since Georgia 400,” says Sandy Springs Revitalization Vice Chairman Roger Blichfeldt.

 

Blichfeldt is among the Sandy Springs Revitalization and Sandy Springs Business Association members who participated with other community representatives on a 17-member GDOT Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) that began looking seriously at technical requirements and interchange design alternatives in September of 2001.

 

After reviewing various options, such as the “Single-point”, “Partial Cloverleaf” and “Split-Diamond”, the CAC recommended the “Tight Urban Diamond Interchange” (TUDI) concept as the least invasive and best scenario to present for public comment at a community meeting held November 29th 2001.

 

Although the TUDI design would require additional bridge width and right-of-way for turning lanes and approach lanes, the Citizens Advisory Committee believes that this type of interchange would (1) require the least additional width; (2) be the most pedestrian friendly, allowing for wider sidewalks; and (3) offer a larger storage area for left and through movements.

 

The total project length of the TUDI design is approximately one-half mile along Roswell Road, including .38 of a mile of roadway and .1 mile of bridge. In order to build the new bridge while keeping existing lanes open for traffic, GDOT engineers plan to shift the bridge alignment permanently, either to the east or west.

 

Other design components being considered or required are:

 

  • A raised median at the approach areas between Cliftwood and Lake Placid on Roswell Road to separate traffic flowing in opposing directions.

  • Realignment of Carpenter Drive and Cliftwood Drive to eliminate staggered street crossings and provide more efficient signal and traffic operations.

  • A right in only at Allen Road, and a cul-de-sac at Northwoods Drive to eliminate intersections too close to the interchange ramps.

  • A “braided ramp” eastbound on I-285 intended to smooth mainline traffic flow and eliminate the dangerous weaving that occurs among vehicles entering I-285 from Roswell Road and those vehicles exiting I-285 at Glenridge and GA 400.

  • Modifications to I-285 under the Roswell Road Bridge to accommodate ten 12-foot travel lanes, full width shoulders, HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes for carpool and busses, and room for future Collector Distributor lanes.

  • Improved bike and pedestrian facilities including 9-foot sidewalks and 4-foot bike lanes along Roswell between Lake Placid Drive and Cliftwood Drive.

 

By eliminating traffic delays and serving pedestrians better, it is hoped that the new interchange will promote energy conservation, relieve current congestion and serve the future demand anticipated as employment and traffic in the region moves to and through Sandy Springs.

 

At Issue

While anticipated long-term benefits are many, properties in close proximity to the interchange will be greatly impacted both by the construction and the sheer size of the interchange.  The proposed bridge will be much wider and longer than the existing structure, causing Roswell Road south of the interchange to be raised as much as ten feet to maintain clearances under it -- affecting business frontage, access and displacing some businesses altogether.

 

In April of 2002, the Civic Advisory Committee members were asked to make their final recommendations, considering particularly the consequences of either a westward or an eastward shift of the bridge. The Sandy Springs Business Association contacted impacted property owners along Roswell Road to get their feedback, which was presented at the final CAC meeting held April 29th, 2002. 

 

Based on the available information and a discussion of the pros and cons, the committee members voted 9 to 5 to recommend that the eastern orientation for the new bridge and roadway be presented at the July 10th 2002 GDOT Public Information Meeting. (See sidebar “Pros & Cons”)

 

Several businesses expressed their concern that the proposed medians would limit easy access from Roswell Road to local businesses.  GDOT responded that their guidelines specify a 20-foot raised median where current traffic volumes exceed 18,000 vehicles per day and design year traffic exceeds 24,000 vehicles per day.  Since Roswell Road handles 48,300 vehicles per day now and is projected to have 66,600 vehicles per day in the design year, GDOT will require the medians as a part of this design.

 

Others worried about the access issues that would be created by cul-de-sacking Northwoods Drive and Allen Road. The CAC members recommended that GDOT review the right-ins and right outs for all intersections impacted by the interchange design, and coordinate with an urban designer to mitigate the traffic impacts associated with restricted access

 

The CAC members requested GDOT apply the highest possible standards for environmental review, and use all measures to protect the Long Island Creek Watershed from possible damage that might result from construction activities.

 

The CAC members further recommended that this project use the highest possible standards for an aesthetically pleasing bridge, and use Sandy Springs Overlay Design standards for all streetscaping and sidewalks.

 

Next Steps

As a business person or a resident with a stake in the future of your community, it is important that you let your voice be heard – if you were unable to attend the GDOT Public Information Meeting held on July 10th, you can still submit your written comments if you do so before July 20th 

 

GDOT hopes to complete the Concept & Environmental Phase by the end of 2002. Preliminary Engineering, Right of Way Acquisition, and Final Engineering would follow, with construction possible as early as 2005.

 

  East vs. West Pros and Cons

 

Eastern Shift

Offers best chance for property assemblage and viable business redevelopment on the southwest and northwest side of I-285;

Offers opportunity to create rear access to businesses on northwest side of I-285;

Fewer total businesses would be lost;

Cost to purchase right of way estimated at $14 million;

Opportunity for bus pull-out at Northwood Drive;

The oak trees in the northeast quadrant would be eliminated.

Western Shift

5% chance of saving the old oak tree in the northeast quadrant if project construction can avoid the drip line of the tree;

Will reduce curb cuts/access to businesses on west side of road;

Opportunity for bus pullout at Northwood Drive;

More businesses would be lost resulting in increased right of way costs estimated at $18 million to buy out displaced businesses;

Less opportunity to create rear access or assemble properties north of I-285.

 

Send written comments by July 20th to:

Mr. Harvey Keepler, State Environment/Location Engineer

3993 Aviation Circle, Atlanta, GA 30336. 

If you need additional information, please contact Albert Shelby at 404-656-5440.   Or E-mail Albert at albert.shelby@dot.state.ga.us

Reference the project number:

NHS-0000-00 (247); P.I. No. 0000247.

You can follow project progress on the Sandy Springs Community web site at www.sandysprings.org.

(1)  CAC committee participants Jim Hale and Tom Oulette review the proposed concept design at the November GDOT Public Information Meeting.  (2) Schematic of proposed “Tight Urban Design Interchange”.  (3) Property owners Mike Aldredge (Days Inn) and Joseph Ahlzadeh (Copeland Village) review business access issues with  SSRI Boardmember Cheri Morris. (4)  Wht is the best orientedatio for the road -- east or west?  Can the old oak tree be saved?