The widening of Hammond Drive will be the city of Sandy Springs’ top priority among proposals sent to a regional “roundtable” group deciding how to spend proceeds of a proposed 1-cent transportation sales tax.

“Hammond widening is going to be our top project,” Mayor Eva Galambos said during her “State of the City” address Feb. 28. “I think, being a regional project, it’ll be rated pretty high.”

During her speech to the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, Galambos said cities and local governments are sending their proposals to the “roundtable” group, which is charged with picking projects to be paid for with the proposed 1-cent sales tax. The tax is to be put before the voters in 2012.

At the Sandy Springs City Council meeting March 1, city officials presented the preliminary list of roadway capital projects Sandy Springs plans to send to the “roundtable,” a group made up of public officials from across the metro area that is charged with picking projects to finance with the proposed tax. The proposed sales tax would be collected within a region and spent on projects within that region.

Sandy Springs officials said the tax is expected to raise $680 million to $1 billion a year for 10 years. Also, the city would receive about $1.8 million a year to spend on local projects and road maintenance, city officials said.

The group charged with picking the final proposed project list includes the mayors of Atlanta, Decatur and Kennesaw, county commissioners from Henry and Douglas counties and three legislators, city officials said. The projects chosen are to offer regional traffic improvements and must be included in an approved transportation or regional plan, city officials said.

In addition to the Hammond Drive widening, the city is asking for construction of collector/distributor lanes along Ga. 400 between Spalding Drive and I-285; an extension of Sandy Springs Circle to Northwood Drive by an overpass above I-285; making Peachtree-Dunwoody Road four lanes from Abernathy Road to Spalding Drive; extending Boylston Road from Hammond to Carpenter Drives; and widening Glenridge for a block from High Point Road to Royervista Drive.

The city’s proposed list also includes requests that some of the sales-tax money be spent on safety improvements, bicycle and pedestrian projects and transit.

Officials compiling the list of approved projects have indicated they want to include projects that seem to offer regional improvements, the mayor said. “It was made clear to us that it [the total list] was going to be cut because everybody will send in too much,” the mayor told the City Council.

The Hammond Road widening project has drawn opposition from some residents who live nearby. Resident Dick Farmer, for one, questioned why the city ranked the project so highly. “There is no community support for this project,” Farmer said.

“It’s just going to facilitate huge traffic,” Farmer said. “It will not benefit Sandy Springs. It will congest Sandy Springs. It will destroy downtown. We’re not going to be able to have a ‘walk-able’ downtown with a four-lane highway through the middle of it.”

The proposed project would widen Hammond from Roswell Road to the new “half-diamond” interchange being constructed at Hammond’s intersection with Ga. 400.

Galambos told the chamber that consultants have recommended that Hammond Drive include a lane for “rapid transit” buses, which would have fewer stops than regular buses. The bus could drop commuters off on Roswell Road in “downtown Sandy Springs,” she told members of the chamber. “I think that would help our shopping area,” she said.

The bus then could take Hammond Drive to a stop at the Perimeter area and then to one near the “Spaghetti Junction” intersection of I-285 and I-85, she said.

Galambos said Fulton and DeKalb county mayors have said they support the special 1-cent transportation sales tax provided it supports MARTA. MARTA now has its own 1-cent sales tax collected only in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

“We are in favor of the 1-cent sales tax provided the Legislature gives us a regional system to pay for MARTA, that we have been paying for for 40 years,” she told members of the chamber.

Asked afterwards if she and the other mayors would oppose the tax if the Legislature does not include MARTA, she declined to answer, saying the question was hypothetical. “I think they will do it,” she said.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.