A project to realign the Carpenter Drive/Roswell Road intersection will involve only six weekends of Carpenter street closures instead of six months, Sandy Springs residents were relieved to learn at a March 30 City Hall meeting.

Keith Kunst of the design firm Arcadia explains the Carpenter Drive project to residents at the March 30 meeting at Sandy Springs City Hall. (Photo John Ruch)

“Kudos to the city for listening to you guys—and spending a lot of money to do that,” said design consultant Keith Kunst of the firm Arcadia, explaining a design change that can keep Carpenter open most of the time during a project that will still take six to eight months.

Located off Roswell Road just north of I-285, Carpenter Drive runs as a half-mile horseshoe with both ends making quirky intersections with Roswell. On the south end, a median blocks left-hand, southbound turns. On the north end, Carpenter is off-center by roughly 40 feet from Cliftwood Drive on the opposite side of Roswell. The out-of-alignment set-up makes for an oversized, complicated intersection that frequently traps confused drivers and clogs traffic.

Last November, the city announced the plan to realign Carpenter’s northern end to align with Cliftwood. But the city also shocked Carpenter’s many residents and business owners by saying the work would require completely closing that end of Carpenter during the entire project.

The closure was the simplest way for the city to deal with major utility relocation and construction of a 14-foot-high retaining wall. But in response to the complaints, the city now will build a temporary wall during construction that will allow the street to remain open most of the time. Even though the exact schedule is unknown—the project isn’t even out to bid yet—city officials committed to closing Carpenter’s north end for only six weekends during the estimate six to eight months of construction.

“Much better than last time,” said one of many residents at the meeting who expressed relief.

A previously released city map showing the proposed realignment of Carpenter Drive, at right, with Cliftwood Drive, at the left.

When the closures do happen, they will still force drivers to make long detours—one route is 1.4-mile loop that crosses I-285 twice through other neighborhoods—to access Carpenter’s open south end. But residents didn’t seem to mind since it amounts to only 12 days of headaches.

“I won’t lie to you. It’s a pretty long detour, but it works,” Kunst said. The project will not require total closure of Roswell Road at any time, other officials said.

A previously unanswered question was how fire and ambulance service would be maintained during closures, especially for the Campbell-Stone senior home. This time, city Fire Rescue Chief Keith Sanders answered in person, saying that fire trucks and ambulances could drive across the Roswell Road median if necessary for quick access. The department actually tested that driving maneuver, he said.

Besides realigning the intersection, the project also adds left-turn lanes to Carpenter.

The project could go out to bid in about a month and construction is likely to start late this year or in early 2017, officials said. Marty Martin, the city’s capital improvement programs manager, said it’s hard to estimate a budget in today’s volatile construction market until bids come in. But, he said, it will be higher than the original plan due to the extra work on the temporary wall.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.