By John Schaffner
Sandy Springs traffic and development planners have worked closely the past year and a half with the Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID) and DeKalb County on planning road improvements to improve traffic flow from Ashford-Dunwoody Road to Roswell Road along Hammond Drive.
DeKalb has a plan to make Hammond six lanes from Ashford-Dunwoody to the county line. The PCID has worked with the city of Sandy Springs to bring the Hammond Drive-Ga. 400 “half-diamond” interchange project to reality. The PCID is contributing $5 million of the $18 million project cost, and PCID President/CEO Yvonne Williams announced at a breakfast meeting March 25 that construction is expected to begin in August.
To expedite the $5 million contribution and move the project forward, the Sandy Springs Development Authority was formed in conjunction with the PCID in “rapid time,” Williams said.
Meanwhile, survey work began last month along Hammond Drive between Glenridge Drive and Roswell Road to develop options for widening that part of the corridor.
Spurred by development
The Ackerman expansion of the Corporate Campus development at Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Hammond Drive and other planned and potential redevelopment at that busy intersection provided the catalyst to bring the entities to the table to jointly plan for traffic needs.
“Our main concern was how we manage all this in that corridor so that we have reasonable access for each project and don’t forgo opportunities because we were doing them one project at a time,” Sandy Springs Community Development Director Nancy Leathers said. “We actually had a series of meetings with the Perimeter CID, and including DeKalb, to exactly study that issue.”
Those meetings led to a study funded by the Perimeter CID. Leathers said the study was the basis for the plan for that particular east-west corridor.
Mark Moore, chief traffic engineer with the city, said the Corporate Campus development, the planned redevelopment of Hammond Center by Oxford Properties and the redevelopment of Palisades to the south of the Oxford property on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road are the three “developments of regional impact” (DRI) in Sandy Springs.
“Then there are the High Street, Novare and so forth on the DeKalb side,” he said. “They are all looking at their impact from a traffic study standpoint, but it is not completely in a vacuum. They do have to identify the other DRIs in the area.”
He said the entities have worked for a year and a half or so putting it all together into “a combined vision that will take all of these into account.”
Moore said DeKalb has a plan in its capital improvement program, which has federal and state matching dollars, “that effectively widens Hammond Drive to six lanes” east of the county line, and “we wanted to make sure that we were all sort of matching up.”
He said it was “the brainchild of the PCID where we all sat down with the property owners and came up with a combined plan that would take six lanes all the way from Peachtree-Dunwoody into DeKalb’s work and ultimately all the way down to Ashford-Dunwoody.”
In that phase of the work, the six lanes will end at the traffic signal at Concourse Parkway. “That is sort of one project,” Moore said.
The Hammond Drive bridge over Ga. 400 is the next piece and is being worked out by the PCID and the Georgia Department of Transportation, Moore said. The work on the half-diamond interchange will include improvements to the bridge.
In terms of Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, a number of intersection improvements are required at Hammond Drive, but no widening is planned north of Hammond.
Moore said the interagency discussions led city planners to go back to the City Council for more money for work west of Ga. 400. “Instead of just looking at Hammond Drive from Roswell Road to Glenridge, which was the original scope, we would now expand it effectively from the city limits to really Mount Vernon.
“We have this middle section designed that we all — the city, DeKalb, PCID and the individual landowners — are on the same page about. It was quite a feat of cooperation. I think it was that everyone realized they have a piece of this problem and that it is not good for anybody if this just sort of chokes out trafficwise. We will be looking at how we take it to the west.”
Bus rapid transit is a longer-term issue, Leathers said, and is being looked into particularly along Hammond. “The corridor that we see for future transit development really is the Hammond corridor, connecting the Roswell Road corridor with Perimeter Center.”
Moore said the three entities also are looking at some other linkage pieces. One such piece is a parallel east-west connector between Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Perimeter West Parkway and the new flyover bridge at I-285.
The Palisades expansion requires that the connector portion between Peachtree-Dunwoody and the eastern property line of The Palisades be built. There also is a piece involved in the redevelopment of Hammond Center by the Oxford Group. DeKalb owns the last bit of property that would have to be crossed, and DeKalb and the PCID are in negotiations to get that bit done. Novare Group, which owns the corner property at Perimeter West Parkway and Hammond Drive, is on board with its section.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has an intersection improvement program at Lake Hearn Drive and Peachtree-Dunwoody that would improve access coming out of Lake Hearn onto I-285. When Palisades is redeveloped, part of its commitment is to add a turn lane on the westbound off-ramp from I-285 onto Peachtree-Dunwoody Road.
“We are also talking about how to engage all of the hospitals on Peachtree-Dunwoody south of I-285 to deal with the other piece that is literally looming right over the hill,” Moore said.
“We are really trying to sit all of the parties down and take sort of a holistic view and try to come up with master plans, and then as developments come in, we have an idea of what it is going to take,” Moore said. “We have an idea of the scale of redevelopment in this area … in general terms, thanks to the land use plan. Now, we can get an idea of what we are going to need in terms of the transportation network. Developers already know what we are looking for.”