GDOT plans two roundabouts on Riverside Drive, which they say are a safety feature that will improve traffic flow. Nearby residents are not sure that will be the case.
GDOT plans two roundabouts on Riverside Drive, which they say are a safety feature that will improve traffic flow. Nearby residents are not sure that will be the case.

The Georgia Department of Transportation says roundabouts on the Riverside Drive/I-285 interchange would be a safety improvement that would improve traffic flow. Residents who live nearby believe the roundabouts will contribute to congestion of their streets.

“Almost every single one of my constituents that has reached out to me is opposed,” said Sandy Springs Councilmember Graham McDonald, who represents residents in that area.

McDonald says he’s also concerned because the roundabout study came before the Atlanta Braves’ announcement that the baseball team was moving nearby to Cobb County.

The roundabouts are designed to replace intersection signals on Riverside Drive’s I-285 interchanges. State transportation officials plan to accept bids for the design-and-build project this fall, with construction to begin next spring.

An open house for the public to learn about the project took place in March at Sandy Springs City Hall. At the event, David Spear, GDOT press secretary, said that while roundabouts are “very popular in other parts of the country,” they’re new to most commuters in the Atlanta area who “tend to be nervous” about the change.

Residents near the interchange say they have good reason to be nervous.

“We’ve got a gridlock problem on Riverside and Heards Ferry [drives], and both streets are critical to our ability to get around,” said Reed Haggard, president of the Riverside Homeowners Association, which represents more than 700 homes. “Coupled with that, we’ve got a terrible cut-through problem [with commuters traveling to and from Cobb County].”

Haggard said that while roundabouts may ease traffic flow from I-285, they may contribute to the traffic problem on Riverside and nearby roadways. “Let’s say this works, then more people will get off I-285 [at Riverside]. I realize it is an exit, but it’s an exit onto a two-lane road. It’s not designed to handle that kind of volume.”

Haggard said he would like to see city officials get involved in the issue and perhaps come up with a better solution. He said the Riverside Homeowners Association sent a letter protesting the project to the GDOT, city officials and nearby neighborhoods, which he said he would like to see protest the project, as well.

“Because, honestly, I think right now if you put in roundabouts, nothing’s going to [improve],” he said. “We’ve got a roundabout in our neighborhood; people don’t get them.”

McDonald said people who drive through the interchanges every day may adapt to using them, but there will be drivers from I-285 frequently driving through that haven’t encountered roundabouts on a regular basis.

McDonald, who noted that he was speaking on behalf of himself and his constituents and not the city of Sandy Springs, says it may be hard to stop the project as its located on federal/state right-of-way.

Sandy Springs City Council has asked to be briefed by state officials on the project, and city staff members are reaching out to the transportation department, according to a recent e-blast that McDonald sent to his constituents.

“This is the absolute last thing my district needs,” McDonald said. “We have to protect Sandy Springs from detrimental levels of traffic.”