By Gerhard Schneibel
gerhard@reporternewspapers.net

Sandy Springs is proceeding with an agreement with four cities across North Fulton for an 18-month cooperative transportation study after the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) agreed to include east-west connector roads such as Hammond Drive, Glenridge Drive and Johnson Ferry Road.

Sandy Springs will contribute $70,019 to the $250,000 study, more than each of the other participants: Roswell, Milton, Johns Creek and Alpharetta.

The City Council tabled the proposal in July after criticizing it in a work session. City Manager John McDonough and City Attorney Wendell Willard urged the council to consider the merits of the proposal at the time. Participating in regional planning would make the city more competitive for transportation funding, they said.

Mayor Eva Galambos recently said once the ARC agreed to study roads connecting Cobb and DeKalb counties through Sandy Springs, city officials looked at the project more favorably.

“We were afraid initially that the only major corridor they would study would be (Georgia) 400 and Roswell Road, which we didn’t feel would get us very far,” she said.

Garrin Coleman of the city Department of Public Works said regional cooperation of this kind is a new concept. “Transportation funding is tight now, so it’s going to help to have multijurisdictional plans and outlooks when you go to look for funding in the future.”

Cedric Clark, also with the city Department of Public Works, said cooperation is important now that north Fulton County is fully incorporated.

“We may bring out different land-use plans and transportation plans for each city together, so we can take a regional approach and not just look at one city at a time,” he said. “We’ll look at all aspects of transportation. … Any time you look at solving transportation issues, you want to take a multimodal approach, so it will include sidewalks and bike path projects and all project types.”

Ga. 400 itself is slated to get an improvement beginning in early 2009 when construction starts on the highway’s half-diamond interchange with Hammond Drive. The $24 million interchange will take 18 months to complete, said Yvonne Williams, the president of the Perimeter Community Improvement District (CID).

The Perimeter CID is contributing $5 million to the project, and the city of Sandy Springs helped facilitate low-interest financing through the Georgia Department of Transportation and helped get approval from the Federal Highway Administration, she said.

“It is one of the very few projects that have been let for construction this year, so we’re very fortunate,” she said. “Getting it built within 18 months is pretty significant, and there are a lot of new jobs and economic opportunities that are expected to come to the area.”

Most of the right of way for the project was provided by the private sector. Once it is complete, drivers will be able to merge from Hammond Drive onto northbound or southbound Ga. 400.