The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods met with representatives of the Georgia Department of Transportation and Atlanta’s Commissioner of Public Works Richard Mendoza Thursday night to try and prevent a traffic gridlock situation in south Buckhead beginning this summer that could result from two or more concurrent construction projects.
|Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza, left, and Loring|
Heights neighborhood president Ron Grunwald were two of the main
participants in the discussion over the construction projects June 14.
Two of the projects include replacing an old, decaying bridge near the Amtrak station at Deering and Peachtree Roads and a massive water main installation and roadwork project along Northside Drive from I-75 to Peachtree Battle Avenue and possibly beyond.
The project at the Amtrak station is expected to close down Deering near Peachtree for 4-6 months, beginning sometime shortly after July 4. The Northside Drive project is expected to begin in August. That project will take 24 months to complete.
The biggest problem is that a compromise had been worked out between two of the neighborhoods (Loring Heights and Brookwood) with the city on a detour to try and protect those neighborhoods from cut-through traffic during the construction work at the Amtrak Station.
That compromise called for Collier Road to be one of the main detour routes for people trying to travel east and west between Northside Drive and Peachtree Road. However, the road work on Northside Drive will cause disruptions to traffic flow around the Collier Road intersection, which even involves closing down that intersection to through Collier Road traffic on two weekends.
Members of the BCN are concerned that these two projects will going on at the same time will cause such traffic congestion that drivers will attempt to cut through their neighborhoods to avoid the construction. The organization wanted to know why the timing of one of the two projects could not be changed to avoid what could be a very major traffic problem.
|Commissioner Mendoza makes a point during the|
the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods discusion
as GDOT metro Atlanta District Engineer Rachel
Brown listens intently.
A major part of the problem is that Deering and Collier roads are the only east-west connector routes between Northside Drive and Peachtree Road in south Buckhead and Northside to Collier is the main route used for employees and patients traveling to Piedmont Hospital from I-75.
The BCN was attempting to persuade GDOT to reschedule the Amtrak project by 6 - 9 months to let construction on the other project progress throughout the Collier Road and Northside Drive intersection so that the agreed to detour route would operate properly.
But, at Thursday’s meeting, both the GDOT officials and Mendoza said that was not an option—primarily due to time limits on the use of the funding. The indicated both projects would proceed without schedule modifications.
GDOT metro Atlanta District Engineer Rachel Brown explained that funding recently acquired for both projects had to be authorized prior to June 30 and those funds had to start being used within a month of authorization.
“We realize this impacts your life. It impacts your community and the way you live,” Brown said. “We want to get it done as fast as we can and get out of your life.”
GDOT officials said the Amtrack construction also involves a safety issue of concrete falling onto the track from a bridge there, which has to be addressed quickly. The emergency project, however, has been in the planning stage for at least a year.
It was pointed out that 17th Street also was part of the compromise detour route for the Deering Road closing. However, Loring Heights Neighborhood Association President Ron Grunwald said using 17th Street as part of the detour route presents its own set of problems.
|GDOT Atlanta District Engineer|
Rachel Brown at the BCN meeting.
“No one uses 17th Street because the lights are out of whack. You are hitting red light after red light,” he said. “People are not going to take that route and will rather try to make their way through the different neighborhoods. Its going to be a nightmare for 6 to 12 months at least.”
“We are working very closely with GDOT to minimize as much as possible disruption to the neighborhoods,” Mendoza said in an attempt to ease tensions in the meeting room. “We have our best minds around this.”
Mendoza said he thinks fixing the signals on 17th Street is a valid idea to help ease problems. “I am committing to you here tonight to have our technicians maintain the optimum timing sequences for the signals around the detour manually—meaning we will go back and check the timing biweekly and make temporary adjustments.”
Mendoza also committed to installing additional signage to help ensure drivers don’t cut through the neighborhoods to avoid traffic. However, Mendoza said he realized the signs offer no guarantees against seasoned Buckhead drivers.
The city’s Public Works director also said he would work with GDOT to determine if additional police officers need to be assigned to assist with proper traffic movement and he committed to having his traffic engineers go to the areas and check traffic turning movements to Northside Drive.
Brown said the Northside Drive project could begin in August. It consists of $12.5 million worth of roadway and water line improvements at the I-75 and Northside Drive intersection and for 2.4 miles up Northside Drive. The road will be resurfaced and the water main is being expanded for capacity to handle growth in the area. The project includes improvements at the intersection of Northside Drive and Collier Road.
GDOT officials said that one lane of traffic in both directions will be open at all times on Northside Drive except for two weekends toward the end of the project. By that time, Deering Road is expected to be reopened.
|Commissioner Mendoza points out the latest plan for detour routes|
during the BCN meeting as GDOT's Rachel Brown looks on.
Work on the Northside Drive project will be done 9 a.m. -5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. -8 p.m. on weekends at the request of the neighborhoods.
Grunwald said that all parties involved will hold another meeting next Wednesday at the Masonic Temple at the intersection of Peachtree and Deering roads to discuss the issue further.
Grunwald and other BCN members believe the state has the ability to delay one of the two projects without losing money to pay for them. “There is no good explanation being given as to why they are scheduled at the same time,” he said.
But these two projects are not the only ones that will be disrupting traffic on east-west arteries in Buckhead this summer. West Paces Ferry Road is scheduled to be repaved from near Peachtree all the way to Northside Parkway. That work is scheduled to also begin in August and could last 90 days, although Mendoza predicted it would not take that long.
That leaves just two east-west connecting routes between I-75 and Peachtree Road in Buckhead from West Paces Ferry Road to the Buckhead’s southern border. Those are West Wesley and Peaachtree Battle Avenue.
Oh, and lest anyone forget, construction also will be going on this summer at E. Rivers Elementary School, at the intersection of Peachtree Battle Avenue and Peachtree Road.
Anyone interested in spending the summer at the beach or in the mountains?