By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

One of the major issues facing the North Buckhead Civic Association—which represents Atlanta’s second largest neighborhood by land mass—involves traffic and interchange improvements at the intersection of GA 400 and I-85, an area outside the neighborhood’s boundaries but and issue that has impacted its residents since GA 400 was built, according to NBCA President Gordon Certain.

GA 400 is a river of asphalt cutting almost through the middle of the North Buckhead neighborhood, which is bounded on the south by Peachtree Road, the north by the Atlanta city limits, on the east by Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and west by Piedmont and Roswell Roads. The neighborhood has 3,500 households and 48 percent of those are detached, single-family residences.

According to Certain, North Buckhead contains some of the least developed land in the city and some of the most urban land in Atlanta. He points out that the largest neighborhood in the city, which is in southeast Atlanta, is still mostly forest land.

“Traffic is the number one issue” for the neighborhood, Certain explains. “The city has no clue about a traffic plan.”

He points out that the reason the intersection of GA 400 and I-85 is important to his neighborhood is because any incident on GA 400 that causes a backup of traffic invariably pushes cars off of the toll road and onto surface streets that run through the neighborhood and exacerbate traffic flows in the neighborhood.

That is why discussions presently underway about how to improve the GA 400/I-85 interchange, including adding ramps to allow traffic to flow directly from GA 400 to I-85 northbound and from I-85 southbound onto GA 400, has become such an important issue for NBCA.

On behalf of the neighborhood association, Certain recently sent a letter to Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl listing five improvements the neighborhood association believes are vital to GA 400:

1. Full connectivity of the intersection between GA 400 and I-85, including both northbound and southbound travel, and including regular and HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes

2. Direct connectivity from northbound Buford Highway onto northbound FA 400

3. A new exit from southbound GA 400 onto Lindbergh Drive

4. A new “jug handle” exit from GA 400 southbound onto Sidney Marcus Boulevard eastbound

5. The dedication of one I-85 southbound lane at (and somewhat upstream of) the I-85 junction with GA 400 southbound to facilitate the merging of non-HOT GA 400 southbound traffic onto I-85 southbound

“Regrettably, the interchange as never completed when GA 400 was initially built,” Certain wrote. “Without getting off the limited access highways and attempting to navigate a complex system os surface streets, it is not possible to go from GA 400 southbound to I-85 northbound or from I-85 southbound to GA 400 northbound. These and other deficiencies result in significant delays on GA 400 and I-85 and cause traffic routinely to back up into the surrounding surface streets and neighborhoods.”

Pointing out that GA 400 has “tremendously impacted” his community since it was first conceived, Certain said in his letter “it literally traverses the very heart of our neighborhood.” Thus, the neighborhood intends to stay closely involved with all developments involving GA 400.

Since his neighborhood association includes a number of engineers, attorneys and others with special expertise, the association has even drawn up its own proposals for on/off ramps to support its suggested improvements and in doing so has tried to focus on using right-of-way already owned by DOT or the city.

Another recent concern of BNCA was plans announced by the city’s Department of Watershed Management to construct a “very large” structure in the nature preserve on Roswell Road to control odors from the Nancy Creek sewer tunnel.

Certain said neighborhood representatives met with Deputy Commissioner George Barnes of Watershed Management and was assured that the odor control support structure would be lowered so that it is about six inches above the concrete slab at the vent shaft. While this does not reduce the overall height of the odor control facility by very much, it will help, Certain said.

He said Barnes also told the neighborhood that the city has located 16-foot American Hollies and will plant those around the facility rather than the smaller ones that had been planned originally. He also noted that Barnes said the 12-inch vents at the other Roswell shaft will be lowered as much as possible and the pipe and concrete will be painted green as will all odor control equipment and duct work.

Finally, Barnes assured the group that the fence that had been proposed around the odor control facility will be eliminated.

Certain said the Watershed Management people had been very responsive to the requests made by BNCA throughout the entire process involving the Nancy Creek sewer tunnel, which he said has successfully eliminated a major flooding problem that had been experienced for years in his neighborhood and others surrounding Nancy Creek in north Atlanta. “We appreciate Watershed Management’s responsiveness to our concerns,” he added.

The odor control site on Roswell Road, almost across the busy thoroughfare from Post Chastain apartments and Pike Nurseries facility, is an example of how this neighborhood has exercised its interest in preserving, protecting and developing green space in the community. NBCA has developed a “community garden” adjacent to the sewer tunnel odor control facility, which contains 30 plots which neighborhood people pay $25 a year to plant, maintain and harvest.

“My wife and I have one of the plots,” Certain proudly proclaimed. “We enjoy the best broccoli you will find anywhere that we grow on that plot.”

The community garden which was masterminded by Kevin McCauley, past president of NBCA, is on Roswell Road land that backs up to the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, which runs between Roswell Road and Rickenbacker Drive. For more information about the community garden, contact Kevin McCauley at kpmccauley1@netscape.net or 404-531-0006.

An issue with Certain is that although the North Buckhead neighborhood occupies 25 percent of the land area of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B is has only just over four percent of the vote on the NPU-B board. He said his association is now targeting obtaining more condominium owners as members. NBCA presently only has 23 percent of those who live in condos as members of the association.

Those interested in finding out more about the association can check out its web site: www.nbca.org or plan to attend a meeting. The association meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church near Phipps Plaza in room S-103.