By John Schaffner

The Johnson Ferry Road-Abernathy Road widening and improvement project, from the river to Cherry Tree Lane just east of Roswell Road, has again been delayed and is scheduled to have the contracts let in January.

Mark Moore, transportation planner with the Sandy Springs Public Works Department, told those at the Sept. 15 Bagels & Business meeting of the Sandy Springs-Perimeter Chamber (SSPC) that all of the right of way for the project has been effectively acquired for the widening of Abernathy Road and the lateral greenway. But he said Abernathy is a state road, and the Georgia Department of Transportation controls the project.

Moore explained the newest delay after outlining the city’s $610 million transportation master plan for more than 100 members and guests attending the SSPC meeting at the Westin hotel. “The master plan is a tool box rather than a blueprint,” Moore said.

Although transportation funding is in trouble locally, statewide and nationally, Moore said most priorities in the five-year plan for Sandy Springs are funded.

He said getting the larger-scale concept plans completed is important to ensure the city maximizes every dollar available. He cited Dunwoody Place: It was determined the city needs to widen only a quarter-mile section to improve the traffic flow.

Moore said the city’s transportation policies include improving traffic signal operations and making intersections safer, reducing the congestion hot spots, developing more of a grid street system in the city center, and exploring opportunities for transit use, including possible bus rapid transit (BRT) routes.

As the man who has shepherded the transportation master plan through its two years of development, Moore pointed out that a lot of the available funding has been put into intersection improvements. He indicated there will be some selected road widenings, but the city considers widenings to be a last resort.

One road that will be widened is Hammond Drive, all the way from Roswell Road to Perimeter Mall. In conjunction with that, Moore said, the contract for the half-diamond interchange — which will provide access to and from Ga. 400 at Hammond Drive — is set to be let in December, with work beginning soon thereafter. He said construction on the project is expected to last a year.

He told the business audience that one aspect of the improved grid system would be to control direct access points from major streets to businesses to improve traffic flow.

Asked about the proposed extension of Sandy Springs Circle past Allen Road and tunneling under I-285 to reduce the congestion at Roswell Road and I-285, Moore said the tunnel under I-285 is still in the concept phase, and planners are looking at several options. He said the expense could make a tunnel “iffy.” He indicated there would be a public hearing on the project next month.

Moore invited everyone to visit City Hall and see the new Advanced Traffic Management System center, which he said is the most advanced in the metro area.