Angry residents packed the Sandy Springs City Council chambers on Oct. 12 and grilled city leaders and Georgia Department of Transportation Officials about widening of Johnson Ferry and Abernathy roads.
GDOT has worked since 1987 increase capacity on the roads which briefly share the same stretch of asphalt, but in the process it has angered countless residents across some eight neighborhoods nearby. More than 200 of them filled the seats as GDOT officials brought them up to speed on the latest developments.
Bryant Poole, GDOT’s District 7 engineer, told the audience that the original completion deadline of June 2012 has been extended to December 2012 due to circumstances beyond the contractor’s control. He said if contractor C.W.Matthews doesn’t meet the new deadline, the state will charge the company $800 a day until the work is completed.
Some in the audience asked if the state could pay the contractor extra money to finish early, but Poole said it wasn’t possible.
“A lot has happened,” Poole said. “I think we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
City Councilman Chip Collins, who called the meeting, asked whether Abernathy would be opened to four lanes by the end of this year as the community was originally told. GDOT officials told him it would more likely be June, setting off a wave of grumbling throughout the audience.
Collins went through an entire list of problems caused by the project, from a controversial four-way stop at the intersection of Johnson Ferry and Bonnie Lane that’s loved by residents and hated by commuters, to concerns about sidewalks and speeding. Concerns about the grade of Brandon Mill Road being too high at the road’s intersection with River Springs Drive prompted Collins to quickly arrange a second meeting. That meeting went on for another 30 minutes after the first one ended, as residents continued to press city officials to fix problems at the intersection. Lynn Watson of the Wyndham Hills neighborhood said the high grading creates a line of sight issue for drivers turning left on to River Springs.
“I don’t think we really got any answers,” Watson said of the first meeting.
Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for GDOT, said the transportation department has tried to address the issue by putting a stop sign on Brandon Mill headed towards Abernathy.
“We have also placed a stop bar on Brandon Mill in the other direction to let motorists know the correct location to turn left into River Springs,” he said. “If left turners will turn at the top of the crest where the stop bar is and if the stop sign is obeyed, the intersection can be safely traversed.”
Collins promised to bring pressure to try to get the issue fixed.
“The neighborhood contends it’s flawed design,” he said.
Walter Cohen, another resident who lives of Johnson Ferry, said the whole project has caused traffic delays for residents that are “just terrible.”
“It’s been over two years and, as I understand it, the contract allows them until the end of next year to finish,” Cohen said. “There’s very little being done … the equipment just sits on the side of the road and they work a couple of days and they’re gone for weeks.”
Ann Henshaw, of the Mountaire Springs neighborhood west of Johnson Ferry, said she thought the officials “did a pretty good job” of explaining things to residents. She and Sheila Champion both want the four-way stop at Johnson Ferry and Bonny Lane to stay put.
“It makes traffic better,” Champion said. “It’s better now than it used to be.”
Collins said the large turnout at the meeting shows people are most focused on what’s going on in their own backyard.
“When you get right down to it, what matters most is what you deal with on a daily basis,” he said. “People expect to have roads in their neighborhoods work as designed.”
Here is one exchange from the Oct. 12 meeting.