Despite objections, the Georgia Department of Transportation will move forward with two road projects that residents say will create traffic headaches.
In two separate meetings, residents of the Loring Heights neighborhood pleaded with officials to delay one of the projects. The officials addressed their concerns with promises of extra signage and better traffic control.
Ron Grunwald, of the Loring Heights Neighborhood Association, left a June 20 meeting at the Masonic Center on Peachtree Street worried that detours around a project at the Amtrak station next door would lead to chaos.
As GDOT and city officials explained their plans for additional signage and strategic road closures to minimize the inconvenience, Grunwald grew frustrated.
“What about the actual realities of what’s going to happen on the ground here?” Grunwald said. “It’s never considered.”
GDOT plans to close Deering Road where it connects to Peachtree adjacent to the train station so a contractor can repair the parking deck, which is actually an old part of the Peachtree Road Bridge crossing I-85. The detour route includes Collier Road and Northside Drive – but GDOT plans to improve that corridor as well.
Both projects are expected to begin later this summer.
Grunwald on June 14 brought the issue to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods attention and members of other neighborhoods also shared his concern.
Was there any chance GDOT could reschedule? Not likely, GDOT said.
Transportation officials said they are hesitant to put off any project, particularly when there’s money to pay for it.
“There are going to be inconveniences,” Atlanta Department of Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza told residents during the June 20 meeting. “There is going to be some pain we have to share.”
Mendoza promised robust traffic control, plentiful signage and said 17th Street will be the preferred detour during construction.
GDOT officials said there are plans to keep traffic moving as crews repair the roads.
“We think we will be able to handle the traffic and the traffic control issues that we have,” GDOT District Engineer Rachel Brown said.
One of the projects, replacing part of an old bridge near the Amtrak station, is considered an emergency. The other project, making multiple improvements to Northside Drive, has been discussed for 12 years.
Mendoza said the department will monitor and adjust signal times and detour signs to make sure traffic is flowing properly.
When GDOT announced the Amtrak project, Grunwald and his neighbors lobbied hard to get a detour route they could live with, convincing GDOT to change an earlier proposal. The news of overlapping projects undermines the deal residents struck with the city, he says.
He said he’s talked to residents of other neighborhoods and spoke with Piedmont Hospital officials about how it will affect emergency traffic.
“It’s going to be a nightmare for six to 12 months at least,” Grunwald said. “That’s where we are today.”
Brown told BCN members that work on the train station project should start after July 4. Brown said work on the Northside Drive project could begin in August. The project consists of $12.5 million worth of roadway and water line improvements at the I-75 and Northside Drive intersection and will affect 2.4 miles of roadway. The road will be resurfaced and the water main will be expanded. Some aspects of the project are designed to improve the intersection of Northside Drive and Collier Road.
Brown said contractors will keep lanes open in both directions for the duration of the Northside Drive project with the exception of two weekends. She said she understands the projects will be an inconvenience. GDOT’s goal is to complete them as soon as possible.
“We want to get the projects done and get out of your life,” Brown said.
Grunwald and other BCN members believe the state has the ability to delay one of the two projects without losing the money to pay for them.
“There is no good explanation being given as to why they are scheduled at the same time,” he said.