Work to realign Carpenter Drive at its off-kilter intersection with Roswell Road sparked local resistance when the city announced last month the fix could come with a six-month road closure. The city is now looking for ways to keep Carpenter open during the work, which could begin next spring.
“I am all in favor of the road being moved,” said Mark Scheinfeld, CEO of the Right Smile Center dental practice on Carpenter. But after hearing of the potential long-term road closure, he said, “I had a couple sleepless nights.”
Scheinfeld was among many Carpenter resident and business owners who attended a City Hall meeting about the intersection plan last month and spoke against a long closure.
“We took the feedback from the meeting and are in the process of looking at design alternatives which would possibly keep a lane open during construction,” said city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun. “We have not finalized any design as of today.”
Located off Roswell Road just north of I-285, Carpenter Drive runs as a half-mile horseshoe with both ends making quirky intersections with Roswell. On the south end, a median blocks left-hand, southbound turns. On the north end, Carpenter is off-center by roughly 40 feet from Cliftwood Drive on the opposite side of Roswell. The out-of-alignment set-up makes for an oversized, complicated intersection that frequently traps confused drivers and clogs traffic.
The city plans to fix the northern intersection by shifting that end of Carpenter northward to align with Cliftwood. But the proposal included a full closure of Carpenter’s north end during the work for as long as half a year. That was a big concern on a street that, despite its small size, has many varied and dense uses—apartments, a hotel, a senior home, office buildings, churches, even the Colombian consulate.
A proposed detour map showed that southbound drivers attempting to access Carpenter would be sent on a 1.4-mile loop, crossing I-285 twice. Drivers attempting to exit Carpenter southbound would have to make a similarly long loop through downtown Sandy Springs.
Llisa Jones, a resident of the Campbell-Stone senior home on Carpenter, said the home’s director drove a busload of fellow residents to the City Hall meeting. Jones said the plans were confusing and couldn’t answer such basic questions as, “How are ambulances [and] fire trucks going to come to Campbell-Stone?”
John Murillo, general manager of the Comfort Inn on Carpenter, said the hotel is “keenly aware” of the possible closure and had its sales manager attend the City Hall meeting. He said he remains uncertain about the project’s timing, and the hotel was planning to provide customers with an “apology” and detour instructions.
“We haven’t gotten much information,” Murillo said.
Scheinfeld was concerned about the impact on his family’s dental business, which has operated on Carpenter for 13 years. He said it was unclear why a six-month total closure was considered. Consultants at the City Hall meeting cited utility relocation and the construction of a retaining wall, Scheinfeld said, adding that in his experience as a developer, those shouldn’t require complete road closure.
At the meeting, Scheinfeld presented a drawing of a way to keep one lane of Carpenter open during construction. He said there was “positive movement” from city staff about it. He added that he believes Mayor Rusty Paul and the City Council had not been “fully apprised” of the planned closure, and his sense is that “closing it for six months is off the table.”
Kraun said the city is considering alternatives and hopes to begin the project in the spring, if design and bidding can be done in time. The city already owns a corner property needed to shift Carpenter northward, she said.
“The main issue to be decided is the road closure element,” Kraun said in an email. “Once we do settle on a final decision on the closure, we’ll reach back out to the Carpenter Drive neighborhood (business and residential).”