Some residents in neighborhoods around Sandy Springs’ Northridge Road, where the Georgia Department of Transportation has proposed flyover lanes atop the road’s overpass for its Ga. 400 toll lanes project, are concerned the plan would change the character of the area and bring more noise and pollution. At a March 10 community meeting, residents asked GDOT to take another look at the plan, although the agency said space constraints mean there aren’t many options.
“Not only would they be horrible aesthetically, but the noise pollution and fumes will certainly be detrimental to our neighborhood,” said Julie Zweig, a resident who helped organize the meeting, which was held at a house in the neighborhood and attended by 75 people. Rep. Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs), and City Council members John Paulson and Andy Bauman are also in attendance.
GDOT is working on two projects that would add four new toll lanes, called “express lanes” or “managed lanes,” along I-285 and Ga. 400 in the Perimeter Center area over the next decade, with the intent of improving overall traffic flow. The toll lanes are part of a system being built metro-wide, including recently opened lanes on I-75 and I-575.
Parts of the toll lanes are proposed to be elevated to use existing right of way, although other parts would be at-grade and would require building demolitions in Sandy Springs.
Northridge is where the toll lanes would transition from being on the outside of the existing Ga. 400 lanes to the center median.
The lanes are proposed to be built over Northridge Road because the bridge does not have room to accommodate them underneath, said Tim Matthews, a GDOT project manager. A Fulton County water line would also need to be relocated if the lanes were built at-grade. Houses may also need to be acquired, he said.
“Our goal is too avoid that as much as possible,” Matthew said of property demolitions.
And although GDOT plans to replace the Pitts Road, Spalding Drive and Roberts Drive bridges, Northridge’s was replaced in a project that ended in 2015. GDOT would prefer not to undo that recently completed work, Matthews said.
Although there are these constraints that led GDOT to the plan to build the lanes over the bridge, Matthews said the neighborhood’s comments will be taken into consideration. He will ask the project engineers to take another look at the bridge to ensure this is the best option.
There is no room to transition the lanes to the center median south of Northridge, Matthews said, in response to a resident request that be considered. Another idea, tunneling the lanes below ground, is too expensive to be considered, he said.
Residents, many who just found out about the project through GDOT’s recently released illustrated video, asked why this project couldn’t be a one-lane reversible system like other toll lane systems built by GDOT, such as those that recently opened on I-75, at least until it gets to Northridge.
Although today’s traffic could potentially be accommodated on a reversible system, GDOT is using projections for 20 to 30 years in the future to ensure they are building infrastructure that won’t quickly become obsolete, Matthews said. Those projections do call for the multi-lane system being proposed, he said.
Some Northridge residents said they are still planning to push for other options, including by attending the March 12 open house set for 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Sandy Springs City Hall, 1 Galambos Way.
“It’s horrifying to think about,” said Kayla Engel-Lewis, another resident who helped organize the meeting. “It won’t look like a beautiful residential area of Sandy Springs.”
This article has been updated with additional information.