By Katie Fallon
Sandy Springs residents sent city staff a clear message at a Nov. 5 public meeting to discuss future improvement plans for a local stretch of Johnson Ferry Road.
Their message: Widening Johnson Ferry Road would be a disaster, with consequences for both residents along the busy thoroughfare and the city as a whole.
Tentative plans for the stretch of Johnson Ferry from Abernathy Road to Hammond Rive, which includes the portion of the road that turns into Glenridge Drive as it approaches Hammond, have not even been created yet, but residents were quick to shoot down any notion of widening plans.
Deputy Public Works Director John Drysdale characterized the future project as one of the most complicated the city has. He said, though, that the financial burden won’t only fall upon the city.
“This is a federally funded project,” Drysdale said. “It’s got federal funds, state funds and city funds associated with it.”
The Monday evening meeting was merely a sounding board for Drysdale and design consultants from Jordan, Jones and Goulding (JJ&G) to gather suggestion for the currently clean slate. Without even potential improvements to react to, residents took the reins and made their feelings extremely clear on what they did not want to see, rather than what they did.
Resident Bill Cleveland, who lives just off Johnson Ferry on Wright Road, was the first to offer a sentiment echoed by several residents. He said he was concerned the city had a “lack of institutional memory” that residents in the area of Abernathy Road only supported that road widening project with the proviso that Johnson Ferry would not be widened.
“Many of the neighborhoods that supported the widening of Abernathy did so because we were told that Johnson Ferry would remain a two-lane road between Sandy Springs Circle and Hammond,” Cleveland said. “I can’t emphasize how much our support for Abernathy was conditional. I am disturbed that one of the options is widening Johnson Ferry to four lanes. That, I guarantee you, will be a fight.”
As an alternate to widening, however, Cleveland did suggest taking the corridor under Roswell Road as an underpass to relieve traffic congestion both on the state route and on Johnson Ferry Road.
The fate of Abernathy Road was again a source of contention when resident Alice Elizabeth Right voiced similar widening concerns.
“From my own perspective, I believe that any change or any study of change between Roswell Road and Abernathy along Johnson Ferry Road is premature until the project concerning Abernathy Road is complete,” she said. “Only then will we know how traffic patterns are truly affected by suddenly having four lanes instead of two. I’d like to see any decisions about Johnson Ferry Road completely deferred until it’s completed. I think it’s entirely ahead of the game.”
While reiterating Cleveland and Knight’s input, many residents said widening Johnson Ferry Road would only serve as a means to benefit residents of Cobb County. Cobb commuters heavily use the road to cut through Sandy Springs from the Chattahoochee River. Concerns were also raised about protecting the community’s neighborhoods from both the traffic and redevelopment of the corridor.
“Rather than protecting the city of Sandy Springs, we’re fueling the growth of Cobb County,” said resident Susan Delgado. “It’s important to grow the community, but we need to protect the citizens, the property and the greenspace.”
In reality, Drysdale said possibilities for the corridor could include widening, partial widening, intersection improvements, reversible lanes, no widening and access management.
“We want to get creative and it will likely be a combination of alternatives,” he said.
JJ&G representative Ed Culican said one concern residents have also voiced is the fate of the many trees that could lay in the path of improvements. While specimen trees have already been marked with white ribbons by the firm, Culican was quick to clarify the purpose of the identification process.
“Those white ribbons are not indicative of anything other than being a specimen tree,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to get cut down. It doesn’t mean it going to be saved. We’ve fielded a lot of phone calls about that and city staff has fielded a lot of phone calls about that.”
Data collection will likely continue through December. When that is over, the city will host another public information meeting before continuing with analysis, concept alternatives, approval and final designs.
Residents can still submit their comments and input on potential improvements to the Johnson Ferry Road and Glenridge Drive corridor. They can be emailed to Jenkins at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Drysdale at email@example.com or mailed to City Hall through Nov. 19. Displays of the project area will also be on display at City Hall through the same date.