A long-awaited study and design of widening Hammond Drive between Barfield and Roswell roads will begin sometime next year after the City Council approved it Dec. 6. The council also approved buying another Hammond house as a placeholder, if the widening project is ever carried out.
City Public Works Director Garrin Coleman said it will take several months to bid the study contract and 18 to 24 months to complete the work.
The largely two-lane stretch of Hammond Drive through the area has been the focus of widening proposals for a decade. The proposals have been locally controversial as potentially increasing traffic and reducing property values, but got good overall public support as an item on the city’s transportation special local option sales tax ballot question that Fulton County voters approved last month. The current widening concepts include not only vehicle lanes, but also sidewalks and possible mass transit of some sort.
The TSPLOST will help to fund the study and design, but not construction, which would be roughly another decade away, if the study determines it is worth doing.
City Councilmember Chris Burnett was elected last year after expressing skepticism about the widening idea during the campaign. At the council meeting, he called for expanding the study’s scope to look at traffic impacts along the Mount Vernon Highway corridor to Riverside Drive because Hammond could become an even bigger east-west commuter corridor that he likened to a new I-285. He also wanted a “team of residents” assembled to review and give input “at the appropriate time.”
Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said he wants to be sure the study includes a true no-widening option, not just the standard “no-build” option that is typical in planning studies. He said there should be an option that improves the street with bike lanes and similar amenities if it is not widened, and Coleman said that can be included.
Councilmembers indicated they received some comments from residents asking to delay the study until various real estate and road projects are complete, but that will not happen. “Is there ever perfect time to do a study?” Mayor Rusty Paul asked Coleman, receiving the “no” he appeared to expect.
The study is estimated to cost $500,000, according to a city memo. The city currently has a $240,000 grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission and the council approved a 20 percent funding match. TSPLOST funds will start coming in April.
In the meantime, the city has purchased seven residential properties on Hammond as “protective buys” to get them at lower prices in case the widening eventually happens. The council approved the purchase of yet another property, a house at 400 Hammond Drive at the intersection with Hilderbrand Drive, for $325,000.
The city earlier this year purchased properties at 372, 418, 521, 550 and 590 Hammond. The 521 Hammond house will be used in the short-term as affordable housing for a police officer, and City Manager John McDonough said it is likely 400 will be, too. The others will be demolished in coming weeks, he said.