By Amy Wenk
“This is very confusing for me,” said Brookhaven resident Chris Martin as he walked around a map-filled room at a Marriott in Sandy Springs Nov. 4.
He was at the fifth open house of revive285 (top end), a project to improve I-285 from its interchange at I-75 in Cobb County to its crossing at I-85 in DeKalb. The hotel walls were lined with site plans and renderings of the project that began in 2006 and will begin construction in four years or more.
“This is the first meeting where we actually have lines on aerial photographs that show lanes and location of transit components, rail and bus routes,” said Frank Danchetz, project manager with the engineering firm Arcadis. “Up to now we have talked about basic strategies and ways to solve the problem.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering eight options, ranging from doing nothing to spending as much as $4.89 billion for new infrastructure like rail or bus transit. The least expensive plan DOT proposes is $130 million for a managed-lane system that converts two existing lanes into “HOT3+” lanes for vehicles with three or more passengers or for those that pay a variable toll.
The revive285 team is now conducting technical analysis and collecting public input to determine the best option, following proper procedures to seek funds from the Federal Highway Administration.
“We don’t know if there is sufficient money in the region or not,” said Tim Preece, deputy project manager for Arcadis. “None of these are set in stone … this is very much the first cut of these alternatives.”
Citizens are encouraged to offer comments at www.revive285.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Details on the eight alternatives are available online.
Here is a summary of proposed improvements for your community:
I-285 at Roswell Rd.
Suggested for Roswell Road are improvements to make it “function much safer and more efficiently,” Preece said.
One option is called the split diamond. Sandy Springs Circle would be extended to I-285, creating a new exit ramp. Travelers from the east could exit on Roswell Road and those from the west could take Sandy Springs Circle. An access road would be built connecting the two roads.
“In essence it provides more options,” Preece said. “It sort of distributes the on and off traffic.”
Another idea is to upgrade Roswell Road in its current configuration. The ramps would be widened, and more lanes on the bridge would be added. Preece said that proposal would be simpler and cheaper, but not as good in the long term.
“The interchange is limited due to capacity on Roswell Road,” said Keith Kunst, primary engineer on the Roswell Road improvements. “You are really not able to improve the capacity of Roswell Road without extensive impacts in the surrounding corridor.”
There also is an alternative that would build a parallel busway with two lanes and a transit station (dubbed Sandy Springs-Northwood) at Sandy Springs Circle and Roswell Road.
“Citizens would be able to walk or drive to the station, board a bus … that would run at pretty fast speeds to zip you over towards Cumberland Mall or Perimeter center or all the way over to Doraville,” Preece said.
Light rail transit is also an option.
I-285 at Ashford-Dunwoody Rd.
Operational improvements are suggested for the Ashford-Dunwoody exit.
The most noticeable change, said Preece, would be wider ramps and more turn lanes. The bridge over the interstate would have additional lanes as well.
Engineers have also proposed a braided ramp at the exit since the spot is difficult to maneuver if you are traveling westbound on I-285. For those getting on the highway quick merging to the left is necessary to avoid exiting at Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. The situation is complicated as drivers wanting to exit I-285 need to merge right for Peachtree-Dunwoody or Ga. 400.
A braided ramp would connect drivers from Ashford-Dunwoody directly to I-285. Exiting cars for Peachtree-Dunwoody or Ga.400 would be diverted underneath the ramp.
“You are now physically separated from that traffic, so that weaving that takes place today, and a lot of braking and arguing for position, is completely eliminated,” Preece said.
I-285 at Ga. 400
There are many suggestions for the I-285 and Ga. 400 interchange but one of most crucial would correct the ramp connecting 400 south to I-285 east. The current loop ramp has one lane and a severe curve that slows traffic. Proposed is a two-lane flyover bridge with a wider curve.
Similar improvements are being considered for the ramp that connects I-285 east to 400 north.