A July 9 concert by heavy metal band Metallica is the latest major event announced at the new Braves stadium in Cobb County as neighboring Sandy Springs plots ways to cope with its traffic.
A full slate of Braves baseball games will begin in April at SunTrust Park in the Cumberland area, and the new stadium’s role as a concert venue also kicks off that month with Billy Joel.
Sandy Springs officials meet regularly with the Atlanta Braves and Cobb County officials about traffic planning, and the City Council got an update on those discussions at its Feb. 7 meeting. But there were few new details. Mayor Rusty Paul repeated his assumption that traffic will be a “disaster” for the first events no matter what, and may get better over time as both officials and stadium-goers adjust. For at least the first several weeks, the city will have a contingent of police officers and Public Works department staff members at key intersections.
City officials said two periods of baseball-related traffic concerns are May 25, when one of two weekday games could come at the same time schools are letting out, and the month of June, when the Braves play 17 home games, their busiest home month of the season.
The city has several ideas for traffic fixes, though none can now be done in time for the stadium’s opening. One idea is turning the I-285 shoulder into a temporary travel lane for shuttle buses. Assistant City Manager Bryant Poole told the council that an early estimate from the Georgia Department of Transportation is that plan would cost about $8 million, as it could require some retaining walls and widening the bridge over the Chattahoochee River.
City officials also said they are doing before-and-after traffic counts on many neighborhood streets so they can measure actual stadium-related impacts. Poole noted that local traffic can become strangled by many causes, such as wrecks or other events.
“It’s very easy for us to say, ‘The Braves or Billy Joel created that,’” when something else might be the real cause, Poole said.
That data will inform the traffic management strategy. It may also be the basis of the city eventually asking the Braves for some reimbursements of its traffic-management costs, Poole said in response to questions from Councilmember Tibby DeJulio.