Designating $5 million from a possible future regional transportation sales tax for improvements to Ashford-Dunwoody Road won’t cover all the work the road needs, a county official told more than 70 residents gathered Aug. 24.
“Five million means you do a couple of these [improvements] and couple of those,” said Ted Rhinehart, DeKalb County deputy chief operating officer for infrastructure.
The discussion, hosted by the Ashford Alliance Community Association, produced wide-ranging discussion over what should – or shouldn’t – be done in an effort to improve traffic congestion on Ashford-Dunwoody.
“I hear a great deal of commitment on the county’s part to limit actions to what the community wants,” Rep. Mike Jacobs (R-DeKalb) told members of the crowd.
Jacobs said later, in an email to his constituents, that he felt during the meeting he had found consensus “that funding should be pursued and the project should focus on improving the intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody and Johnson-Ferry roads, synchronizing traffic signals where possible and improving the sidewalks …”
More than 20,000 cars use the Ashford-Dunwoody corridor a day, Rhinehart said. More than $10 million was allocated to the corridor in earlier proposals for spending the proposed $6 billion regional sales-tax funds, but the amount set aside for the road, like other projects in DeKalb County, was sharply reduced in the latest round of trims, which were announced Aug. 18. “Everybody took a haircut,” Rhinehart said.
The allocations are to be considered by the 21-member Atlanta Regional Roundtable, which has final approval, on Oct. 15.
The roundtable has scheduled a public forum for DeKalb County residents on Sept. 28. The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. and will be held at the Manuel Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur.
Jacobs said in an email that he planned a meeting for Sept. 20 at Montgomery Elementary School, 3995 Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.
The proposed tax will be considered by the voters next year. If approved, it would be collected in a multi-county region and spent on projects within that region.
Rhinehart said the original amount budgeted for Ashford-Dunwoody could have been used to pay for such improvements as signalization projects, turn lanes, bicycle lanes and new sidewalks. The reduced allocation, he said, meant that only some of those projects could be done. “Now that it’s a $5 million concept, it would have to be some piece of that,” he said.
Some residents seemed to question the desirability for the tax at all. “I know Ashford-Dunwoody is a mess in the morning and afternoon,” one resident said, “but we just got our [county property] tax bill [which includes a substantial increase]… and now they want us to vote for one more cent of sales tax.”
State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), one of several public officials at the meeting, said he thought approval of the sales tax was unlikely. “I don’t think as of today this thing will pass,” he said.
Others said that should the tax be approved and a portion of it directed to Ashford-Dunwoody, the cash should be spent on improving the road’s intersection with Johnson-Ferry Road. “I do avoid that area,” one resident said. “Until you fix the signalization… we are all going nowhere on Ashford-Dunwoody.”
Other residents suggested reworking the entrances to Blackburn Park so park users wouldn’t add to the congestion by stopping traffic while trying to get into the park.
Michael Rock, who lives in the Harts Mill area, said money designated for Ashford-Dunwoody Road ought to be spent on sidewalks.
“There is no contiguous sidewalk,” he said. “These kids can’t walk to school. That is where the $5 million ought to go. I’d be happy to take the money.”
Other residents said building new sidewalks would mean taking large portions of residents’ front yards in some areas. There is little space available for sidewalks between the existing houses and the curb, they said.
“I think improvements are needed, but we need to see more specifics,” resident Nancy Perk said. “We need to improve signalization. I’m in favor of improving existing sidewalks, but I’m really against adding ones. They’re going to come up to people’s front doors.”