Sandy Springs officials say the intersection of Spalding Drive at Mount Vernon Road is grade F, meaning it literally fails to serve drivers’ needs.
Many of the residents who drive the roads daily are giving the same grade to the city’s plan to fix it.
Engineers hired by the city and District 1 Councilman John Paulson found themselves on the defensive on June 21 as they introduced a plan they say will ease some of the burden of 4,500 cars per day using the roads. The city’s engineers want to adjust the intersection to free up east and westbound traffic on Spalding Drive.
Paulson called the input meeting at Brandon Hall School to discuss engineers’ revised plans.
There have been 17 accidents at the intersection in the past three years. Most were rear-end collisions, said Chad Epple, vice president of Southeastern Engineering, Inc.
He said the new design will make a dramatic difference.
“Operationally, it runs like a top,” Epple said about the new design. “It will open at a B level of service when first opens.”
The cost of the improvements is estimated to be $400,000 and the city set aside $750,000 to purchase right of way in its recently-approved budget. Construction could begin in late 2013.
Public Works Director Kevin Walter said the city has found the right solution.
“It addresses safety the best,” he said. “It addresses congestion and traffic flow.”
Residents overwhelmingly rejected earlier plans that called for roundabouts and buying up large chunks of right of way, Epple said.
Here’s how the new concept works: The intersection will be backed up from the current position to join at a 90 degree angle, improving the line of sight for drivers. There will be a stop sign for traffic turning left onto Spalding from Mount Vernon and a dedicated turn lane for traffic turning right.
There will be green space and better sidewalks.
But what really fired up residents was what the plan didn’t have: stop signs for east and westbound traffic on Spalding Drive, including the traffic turning left off of Spalding onto Mount Vernon via a dedicated turn lane.
Residents feared without stop signs, drivers will simply fly down Spalding.
Currently the intersection uses the solution implemented when it was under Fulton County’s control before Sandy Springs incorporated: three stop signs.
“We think it still works,” Noreen Rabin said. “We’ve been here for 21 years.”
Ray Cioci, president of the Spalding Lake Homeowners Association, called the plans an exercise in futility. The road improvements will bring more traffic which will require more improvements.
The current setup makes for a more pleasant driving experience, he said.
“I think people going to work have a calm drive on Spalding, because it’s one lane,” Cioci said. “They don’t have to deal with people passing them. It’s treed.”
City officials urged residents to write their comments down on the forms they received when they walked through the door.
Paulson tried to calm the crowd.
“Everyone is so angry about this,” he said.
“We are,” someone in the audience shouted.
Police Chief Terry Sult settled things a bit by saying that the police department would keep tabs on the improvements. If the updated intersection needs stop signs, the city will add stop signs. If it needs traffic lights, that’s an option too, he said.
“We’re going to tweak it if we need to tweak it,” he said. “That’s my point.”