The weekend of the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival at Blackburn Park meant more cars and more pedestrians than usual at the busy intersection of Ashford-Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry roads, which the city has controversial plans to redesign.
Police halted traffic to let festival-goers cross the street from Cambridge Square, anchored by a Kroger. Motorists inched their cars into the “Y” shape of the intersection, trying to merge and squeeze onto Ashford-Dunwoody or Johnson Ferry, depending the direction, before the traffic signal turned red. Horns honked as drivers failed to make it through the light, blocking the box and backing up traffic even more.
To a casual observer, the scene was a bit of a mess.
“It’s the worst intersection in Atlanta,” said Andrew Lundstrom as he and his wife and two friends sat in the meadow of Blackburn Park listening to music during the festival.
Lundstrom at one time lived with his buddy, Tyler Short, off Donaldson Road; he recently relocated to Decatur after marrying.
The two men said they were excited by a new proposal to fix the Ashford-Dunwoody corridor by essentially replacing the elongated “X” intersection with a pair of widely separated “T” intersections. The new intersections would be created by opening new though roads behind the Kroger shopping center and behind the Publix shopping center.
“It seems like a good concept. When I saw [the draft study] I sent it to him … and what did we say?” Lundstrom asked Short.
“That Kroger is going to hate it,” Short answered.
Last month, the property owners of the Publix shopping center and Cambridge Square center showed up at the City Council meeting to decry the recommendations for the intersection.
“I realize this is a vision … but I can’t with good conscience call this plan not specific – it’s pretty specific from what I’m looking at,” Andre Kolazar, senior vice president for Cambridge Square owners Regency Partners, told council members. “This road cuts through the rear of our property,” Kolazar said, adding the proposed road is “the total taking of our property.”
“And while you may be talking in generalities, the reality is simply adopting this plan will severely and negatively impact our center,” he said. “We will lose tenants.”
Councilmember Linley Jones, whose district includes Ashford-Dunwoody Road, stressed these draft recommendations are not going to happen tomorrow or even in the next couple years.
The study is a part of an overall corridor vision to create a more walkable and bicycle-friendly Ashford-Dunwoody Road while also addressing notorious traffic congestion.
And right now, she said, people are using the residential Bubbling Creek Road and the Sexton Woods and Hampton Hall neighborhoods to bypass the odd intersection.
“The cut-through traffic really is a crisis … and it’s heartbreaking,” she said of residents who say they no longer feel safe walking on their own streets.
As a testament to the “cut-through crisis,” courtesy shuttles provided by the Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival ferrying people from Marist School to Blackburn Park took Bubbling Creek Road and then turned right onto Donaldson Road to drop everyone off at the park entrance on Ashford-Dunwoody Road.
Jones and others don’t know the exact history of how the Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Johnson Ferry Road intersection was created other than the rumor is they were once old Civil War trails. “And Civil War trails are not good traffic planning,” she said.
At the Righteous Room, a small bar in the Mesh Corners shopping center adjacent to Donaldson Drive, Nicholas Bayer was drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon after a few hours of listening to music at the festival.
He relocated to Brookhaven from Charlotte, N.C., two years ago and lives in the Rock Creek at Ashford apartments off Ashford-Dunwoody Road. He and a friend walked to Blackburn Park and he said he regularly runs on the busy road, including at the Johnson Ferry intersection.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “I never feel like I’m going to be hit. For the most part, people are observant.”
He said he’s noticed school traffic on Ashford-Dunwoody Road often uses merge lanes as turn lanes and that police occasionally monitor the area to keep that from happening. “You’ve just got to be patient,” he said.
He said he was unfamiliar with the corridor study plan, but called the idea of creating more walkability along Ashford-Dunwoody Road a great idea.
“You already have the great asset of Blackburn Park and I think local businesses would appreciate it,” he said. “Look how it’s helping businesses along the Atlanta Beltline.”
Several residents are speaking out against the proposed changes at City Council meetings and sending hundreds of emails to council members voicing their opposition to the plan.
“The most controversial intersection is Ashford-Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry and that makes sense because the recommended changes are the most dramatic,” Jones said.
Jones, who lives in Cambridge Park near the intersection, said she relocated her law office from Ravinia in Perimeter Center to south Buckhead due to its traffic congestion.
“I was having to wait 15 minutes on Johnson Ferry Road because of the traffic light,” she said. “I actually moved my office … because it is faster to drive four miles to [south Buckhead] than the two miles to Ravinia.
“This is impacting our community, our way of life,” she said. “It is an ineffective 5-way intersection.”
Not all feel the same way, of course.
Alton Conway told the council at its March 28 meeting that a lot of residents “feel you are messing with Mayberry.”
“Take the T-intersection off the table,” he urged them, saying he regularly times the intersection and he never waits more than two to three minutes.
To view the draft study, visit brookhavenga.gov/city-departments/public-works/ashford-dunwoody-road-corridor-study.
Send email to provide feedback to ADCOrridorStudy@BrookhavenGA.gov.