By Gerhard Schneibel

The Sandy Springs City Council deferred discussion of its proposed transportation master plan May 20, but not before hearing criticism from the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods and the Long Island Creek Watershed Preservation Association.

Part of the city’s comprehensive master plan, the transportation plan is intended as a general guideline for the development of transportation infrastructure through 2030. Citizens complained the plan runs counter to fostering neighborhoods and developing an eventual town center because it stipulates widening roads, which encourages commuters to pass through the city.

Mark Sampl, Council of Neighborhoods vice president of communications, said widening roads has a negative impact on the quality of life in city neighborhoods.

“Certainly there are things in [the plan] that improve our quality of life and things that do not… I will focus on the things that really concern the community. Big picture: the Sandy Springs community does not want to be expanded any more as a traffic hub for Cobb, the City of Roswell and Alpharetta commuters to get to their workplaces, especially into the Perimeter (Mall) district,” he said.

“We’ve already sacrificed Sandy Springs land for MARTA, [Interstate 285], [State Route 400], Roswell Road and now Abernathy for this purpose,” he explained. “When will it stop? Widening roads does not mitigate the problem. It’s only a temporary fix that gives commuters the false perception that commuting through our city isn’t too bad and our patterns do not change until the widening roads fill again.”

Richard Farmer, education chairman of the Long Island Creek Watershed Preservation Association, also criticized the plan’s policy of street widening, calling it detrimental to quality of life in the city.

“We [need to] protect our future downtown from an onslaught of east-west traffic between Cobb and DeKalb counties and an absolute gridlock on Roswell Road,” he said. “If you widen Hammond Drive, you’re asking for the instant destruction of whatever downtown we will have, as well as bringing pollution and congestion.”

According to John Drysdale, Deputy Director of Public Works, the plan will need to be updated periodically once it is adopted to “stay a viable, living document.”

“The comprehensive transportation plan is a fully multi-modal transportation plan, by which we mean that it speaks to all the modes of travel. This includes pedestrian, bicycle, transit, vehicular, recreational, etc. The plan identifies deficiencies in various travel modes and will help guide policy recommendations and capital investment,” he wrote in an email.

“The total implementation cost for all recommended projects through the year 2030 is $610 million. This breaks down to a per year cost of approximately $30 million short term, $29 million mid-term, and $17 million long term.”

Sample also pointed out that planning commissioners Donald Boyken, Susan Maziar and Roger Rupnow abstained from voting on the plan when it was approved 4-0-3 April 17 because they hadn’t been able to review the plan after it was revised by the public works department after March 3.

“I wanted to highlight the fact the public never had any opportunity to read the final document,” he said. “I understand that it’s now complete, but it’s kind of a waste of time for us, having done all that work, and now having to figure out what’s new in the plan, now that it’s possibly final.”