By C. Julia Nelson
Fifteen commercial trucks bearing more than six wheels illegally drove along Moores Mill Road in the Ridgeview Heights neighborhood of Buckhead between 10:20 and 11:20 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 7.
Despite the four signs posted along Moores Mill, or the fact that the ordinance carries a $500 penalty, truck drivers still use the residential road as a cut-through.
Almost a decade has passed since the City of Atlanta adopted ordinance 98-0-0204. It specifically prohibits commercial trucks in excess of 30 feet, weighing more than18 tons and having more than six wheels from traveling the stretch of Moores Mill Road between I-75 and Bolton Road. But to drive that length of road on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., one would never know such a thing existed based on current traffic patterns.
Residents are concerned about the illegal use of Moores Mill after fighting for years to alleviate the traffic safety issue. During the last meeting in 2007 of the Neighborhood Planning Unit-C (NPU-C) at Trinity Presbyterian Church, a unanimous vote of 16-0 supported a resolution reminding Atlanta City Council of its obligation to enforce the ordinance.
Heather Grimsely, President of the Ridgewood Heights Neighborhood Association, presented the resolution at the meeting.
“In the last six months, (Moores Mill Road residents) have seen an increased volume of heavy trucks on Moores Mill, the majority of them going somewhere between Bolton and S. Atlanta Road – a lot of them to the landfill,” Grimsely said. “This is in direct violation of the ordinance that we had passed in 1998.”
The resolution specifically seeks to gain support from the Atlanta Police Department (APD) to enforce the ordinance and from city departments to avoid issuing permits to ‘create or imply immunity from the ordinance for trucks in violation.’
Grimsely said ongoing talks with Atlanta City Council have been productive in eliminating permits to use the road for commercial truck traffic, but the problem still persists.
“The city was quite responsive as soon as we made them aware of the ordinance; they started pulling permits,” Grimsely said.
Permit or not, it’s not unusual for residents to see overweight trucks barreling down Moores Mill only to come within inches of clipping oncoming vehicles at the traffic light at West Wesley Road. Moores Mill is also known to be a local bike path and in many cases sidewalks only exist on one side of the road, if at all, putting pedestrians at risk, too.
Tim Cowley, a longtime resident of Moores Mill Road and a member of the original team of neighbors to help draft the ordinance, wants to see citations issued to reduce the truck traffic and make the streets safer in his neighborhood.
“What we see over there is concrete trucks with concrete loads or landfill trucks,” Cowley said. “If they’re not delivering anything between I-75 and Bolton Road, they need to be charged the $500 fine.”
Eric Ranney, Chair of NPU-C, suggested commercial trucks consider taking I-75 to I-85 as an alternate route and indicated to the crowd of about 30 people that Moores Mill Road is just a microcosm of the overall problem.
“The focal point of tonight is Moores Mill, but hopefully it’s the leading edge of a larger discussion (of other problem areas),” Ranney said. “We want to be part of the solution, not just part of the problem.”
“We have this wonderful highway for trucks to use and what we would like is for the city to direct traffic there,” she said.
APD Lt. Byron Martin said he suspects writing tickets would not be enough to keep the trucks off the road.
“The problem is bigger than Moores Mill,” Lt. Martin said. “It’s a signage problem – when they get to the sign that says ‘No Trucks’, the trucks are already there and there’s nowhere to turn around.”
Lt. Martin said cooperation from the Department of Public Works is necessary to issue additional signage, possibly before the I-75 exit, to prevent trucks from taking the residential route. He promised to give every officer a copy of the ordinance and said traffic patrol would increase in the area.
Ranney is hopeful to arrange a meeting between representatives of Atlanta City Council and Ridgewood Heights neighbors within the next month to discuss the issue further.
Shelley Peart, an Atlanta Traffic Department project manager working on The Connect Atlanta Plan, which is the first Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for Atlanta, said preserving the neighborhood streets is a top priority for the project.
“As part of the plan we will be looking at truck issues,” Peart said. “We know we need a lot more signage throughout the city. It’s not just Moores Mill; it’s a much larger issue.”
Other streets mentioned at the meeting as areas of concern included West Wesley Road, Berkeley Heights and Underwood Hills.
The yearlong CTP study is only a month underway. Interested citizens are asked to become stakeholders and take an active roll in supporting the development of the plan by applying online at www.connectatlantaplan.com or by calling (404) 330-6800.
Public work sessions will be set monthly in each of seven outreach districts throughout Atlanta.