Jeff Turnage unfolded a map in the driveway of his home on Ashford-Dunwoody Road and spread it out on a visitor’s car. The noise of rush-hour traffic nearly drowned out his voice.
“It’s basically a dead-end road,” he said as he pointed out the stretch of road between I-285 and Peachtree Road.
This stretch of road, however, is also a major thoroughfare for Brookhaven residents and commuters. They use the road to go everywhere from the interstate to City Hall.
A major north-south route through the city, Ashford-Dunwoody Road is a largely two-lane road often overwhelmed by traffic from the hotels, schools and parks that it serves. Last year, City Council hired Gresham, Smith and Partners for $125,000 to come up with a “corridor vision” to improve the street.
Their vision for the overall street is adding sidewalks and multiuse paths, as well as grassy medians in some spots. Much of the work could be done within existing right of way, though that can still mean cutting down trees or digging up sizable swaths of property that many residents now think of as part of their front yards.
The final draft recommendations will be available to review at a public open house on Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Brookhaven City Hall.
Turnage, who has lived at his home for nearly 20 years, sees the effort to make room for more traffic as something that will destroy his neighborhood and way of life. “We knew what we were getting into when we bought on road, but we did not buy into someone’s idea of cutting down trees and putting in more lanes,” Turnage said.
Emily and Andrew Simpson moved to their home nearby about two years ago. From their house, it’s just a short walk to Montgomery Elementary School and they chose it because they could walk their young children to school. They have a spacious front yard on Ashford-Dunwoody. Large trees border the road in front of their house and provide a buffer to the constant noise of the traffic whizzing by.
“If these changes go through, our trees and half our driveway will be gone,” said Emily Simpson. “We moved here because we wanted to live in a better school district and needed a bigger house. This is the perfect house.”
Her two children, ages 4 and 2, regularly play in the front yard, she said. But the idea of widening the road and taking out at least 40 feet or more of their yard means the children will be force to play in their hilly and sometimes dangerous back yard, she said.
“Our house sits farther back [from the street], it’s shielded, our kids can run in the front yard,” she said. “With this plan we lose all of that, all our trees, everything in the front yard.”
Andrew said their property values would be crushed by the road changes, including widening and/or adding turn lanes near their home. He and his wife questioned the city’s willingness – or what they believe to be a lack of willingness — to listen to the concerns of homeowners living along the road.
“Our stretch is the only stretch with families and kids,” Emily said. “We are the only stretch that directly affects 12 or 15 homes and families of us compared to a couple of hundred in apartments down the road. What makes me mad is we are actually live on the street, but [the city] wants to move people [in cars] who don’t live here quicker. And they don’t live here or vote here.”
City Councilmember Linley Jones, who represents District 1 including the Ashford-Dunwoody Road corridor, said the point of the study was to identify improvements.
“To leave the road as it is is not on the table,” she said. “The problems on this road are obvious and well known. We are obligated to address the impact. Homeowners’ concerns are an important consideration and efforts are being made to listen. We want to improve the quality of life, not damage it.”
The fact is Ashford-Dunwoody Road is a much different road than it was just a decade ago, Jones said.
“The road has changed dramatically since older residents lived there.” she said. “But it is an important connector road and we can’t remain stagnant.”