Gaytha Burg directs traffic along the 1800 block of Mount Vernon Highway in Dunwoody. Photo by Ellen Eldridge.
Gaytha Burg directs traffic along the 1800 block of Mount Vernon Road in Dunwoody. Photo by Ellen Eldridge.

Gaytha Burg directs traffic along the 1800 block of Mount Vernon Road in Dunwoody, taking in the comments from motorists.

“You have no idea what you’re doing,” one man yells out his open window.

On an 83-degree day, Burg keeps her cool, mumbling something about traffic having to stop so the truck can move the pipe. DeKalb County is in the process of replacing a water main along Mount Vernon, but the construction and road delays don’t stop there. As soon as the county finishes its work, the city plans to start paving.

But Dunwoody drivers aren’t the only ones who might want to seriously consider alternate routes to Mount Vernon Road for the duration of the summer. On April 13, Sandy Springs closed the road at the busy intersection of Mount Vernon at Spalding for a re-alignment project.

According to the city’s website, work includes major demolition, grading, storm drainage and underground utilities; construction of the new roadway at the intersection; and installation of a traffic signal system.

Sandy Springs resident David Searles emailed Mayor Rusty Paul to say the road closure “created a traffic nightmare.”

“This intersection ‘improvement’ is a boondoggle,” Searles wrote. “It is a waste of money that only benefits Gwinnett County commuters who cut through our subdivisions.”

Further, Searles questioned the safety of the road closure, citing difficult access by fire and emergency services personnel, a public safety hazard.

The mayor responded, saying the project is necessary and will help move traffic more efficiently when completed.

“We continue to look for solutions to lessen the impact, but we can’t make everything normal when it affects an area with few alternatives,” Paul wrote. “Our traffic engineers deem the project important from both a safety and operational perspective and we will press the contractor to compete it as quickly as possible, but it is slated to be a 120 day project.”

A construction truck moves a section of pipe for the DeKalb County water main replacement project ongoing on Mount Vernon Road in Dunwoody. Photo by Ellen Eldridge

Mount Vernon Road projects won’t end with the water main replacement near Vernon Oaks Drive either. The entire road repair project will continue through October and possibly into November, Councilman Terry Nall said.

“We were under the gun to get the entire project going and approved by DeKalb County ,” Nall said. “Nancy Jester expedited the approval for us because it’s not just the water pipe, but the asphalt for paving and we needed to get it done before the winter got here.”

If the water main replacement doesn’t finish while the weather is warm enough for paving, Nall said the city would have to wait another year before paving Mount Vernon.

From Dunwoody Village out to Vernon Oaks, the city plans to add sidewalks and move curbs slightly to allow for a bike lane. “That’s the part that will take a little time versus the rest of [the project],” Nall said.

The good news is that all construction and paving work will take place only between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. That’s because people who live along Mount Vernon wouldn’t want to be woken by crews working overnight, Nall said.

“I’ve gotten just a couple of emails asking why we didn’t have this work done at night,” Nall said. “And I remind them that people live in that area there. Other than in the Perimeter Center area, every street in Dunwoody has residents living on it. We have to be mindful of that.”

The water main replacement project currently underway stops at Vernon Oaks Drive because next year, a project involving the turn lanes and additional water main replacement will commence.

“The water line ultimately will extend all the way down Mount Vernon, so this is only the tip of the iceberg,” Nall said.

Currently, Dunwoody City is working on the right of way acquisition for the Vermack Road turn lane project. In October, remaining funding for construction will be allocated and construction should begin in 2016, according to the capital project status report provided by Public Works Director Michael Smith.

Gaytha Burg directs traffic along the 1800 block of Mount Vernon Highway in Dunwoody. Photo by Ellen Eldridge.

The work for the pipes is on the south side of Mount Vernon, but one lane will always be open. Currently, GS Construction has workers like Burg directing traffic so that only one lane at a time is stopped.

The reason they started the water main on that end is to make the road presentable and passable for the Fourth of July Parade, Nall said. Public Works worked with Pam Tallmadge so there will be no impact on the parade.

“Everyone knows when the parade is and that the road needs to be passable at least down to the Village,” Nall said.

Nall said somebody asked him why the city didn’t wait until after summer to do this work.

“If we had waited, that would have put our paving into the winter,” he said. “The paving is the last piece—up to Ashford-Dunwoody. The very last thing that will happen with this project is the paving of that section. Paving is the finishing touch, like combing your hair and then putting in hairspray—it’s the last thing you do.”

Additional projects ongoing along Mount Vernon in Dunwoody include a Mount Vernon Way sidewalk installation project that is 75 percent complete, crosswalk improvements at Mount Vernon and Stratham intersection and a concept design reviewing traffic and accident history at the Tilly Mill at Mount Vernon Place and Mount Vernon intersection.