The Sandy Springs and Cobb County Chambers of Commerce have teamed up to tackle Braves stadium traffic with a new task force.
The new “Transportation Task Force” has participation from Fulton County Schools and Kennesaw State University; such industry organizations as the Georgia Motor Trucking Association; such major corporations as Home Depot and Arby’s Restaurant Group; and local businesses like Sandy Springs’ Wyndham Atlanta Galleria hotel. The task force is in the early stages of coordinated traffic response as SunTrust Park’s Opening Day looms on April 14.
“We are thrilled to be involved in this work,” said Tom Mahaffey, president of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, in a written statement. As we all know, what happens in [Cobb’s] I-75 and I-285 intersection affects all of us. Essentially, traffic concerns don’t stop at the county lines.”
Gary Bottoms, chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, said the group is “early in this study” and considering such options as flexible work schedules and ride-sharing programs.
“I formed this task force to look carefully at what kinds of actions could be undertaken by the hundreds of businesses in Cobb and Sandy Springs to improve the Braves’ game day experience and help the traffic situation for everyone,” Bottoms said in a written statement.
Traffic impacts have been a huge concern since the Atlanta Braves baseball team announced a surprise, secret move to Cobb’s Cumberland area in 2014, which is a highway interchange that lacks mass transit connections. Stadium-goers may bring economic opportunity for local businesses, but they also fear the costs of making the area’s already notorious traffic even worse.
SunTrust will hold its first exhibition game on March 31, with fewer ticket sales than a full game, before Opening Day in April. Many games will be held in the evenings in the hopes of avoiding peak rush hour. The stadium also will host major concerts, with two already announced: Billy Joel on April 28 and Metallica on July 9.
The governments of Cobb and Sandy Springs had a rough relationship for months with little or no communication about stadium traffic planning. That relationship has improved, but few actual infrastructure improvements are in the works weeks before Opening Day.
The Chambers of Commerce met about two weeks ago to kick off the task force’s work.
“Everyone has a stake in minimizing the time we are stuck in traffic and so we are asking for a lot of input before we craft our recommendations,” Bottoms said.
According to Mahaffey, the first meeting included briefings from a long list of agencies: the Atlanta Regional Commission; the Georgia Department of Transportation; Cobb and Sandy Springs government staff members; four area Community Improvement Districts, which are self-taxing business districts; Kennesaw State; and “several consulting groups.”
The task force will come up with specific ideas for managing local traffic as well as suggesting “long-term solutions” to metro Atlanta government leaders.
“There are some things we can do to help,” Mahaffey said.
Fulton County Schools spokesperson Susan Hale was among those in attendance. While few Braves games are expected to occur during school hours, some will, and the school district’s headquarters is in the traffic zone on Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs.
“At this point, everyone who was in attendance is still very much in the planning stage,” Hale said in an email. “There is not yet enough information to develop a traffic plan that would affect our schools as well as our central office, which is Sandy Springs and not far from the new stadium.”
David Rossman is the general manager of the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria hotel at 6345 Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs, close to the Northside Drive exit on I-285 that will be a hot spot of stadium traffic. He said the task force’s meetings are “quite helpful in the short-run for dealing with the anticipated SunTrust Park traffic and in discussing more long-range solutions to our area’s traffic challenges.”
Rossman said there are some specific solutions for his business sector. “The hotels will have a designated drop-off and pick-up location on Windy Ridge Parkway just north of the stadium for their guests,” he said. “The multiple parking options and Braves’ proactive plans to get ticket holders to the most convenient parking location based on their direction of travel should help along with their partnership with Uber and with the wayfinding app Waze.”
“It has been terrific to work with partners in the region on common issues,” Bottoms said. “As we all know, as long as we don’t care who gets the credit, a lot can be accomplished.”