Proposed changes to the unusual Ashford-Dunwoody Road/Johnson Ferry Road intersection are off the table after enduring backlash from residents and business owners.
The Brookhaven City Council decided at its April 12 work session to eliminate the proposed recommendations included in the year-long, $125,000 Ashford-Dunwoody Corridor Study conducted by Gresham, Smith and Partners.
Although the study’s recommendations for the X-shaped intersection that included realigning the two major roads behind the Publix and Kroger shopping centers was meant to represent a vision for the future as well as offer a baseline study to seek state and federal funding for future improvements, the council decided now was not the time to even consider it.
“The concept is not ripe yet,” Mayor John Ernst said.
Ernst said that although the proposed plans are good to have in place for planning and applying for grants, the future of the intersection is dependent on the redevelopment of Kroger and Publix grocery stores. What will happen to those properties may be 10 or more years in the future and more ably handled by a future City Council, Ernst added.
“I think we eliminate it and let a future council deal with it,” he said.
Ernst also said feedback he received from the public was overwhelmingly opposed to the ideas for the intersection. A suggestion by Councilmember Linley Jones to keep the long-term plans for the intersection in an appendix or to table this specific part of the plan to the corridor study was shot down by the mayor who was concerned residents would believe the council was trying to deceive them.
“If we table it, people will see it as a ruse,” Ernst said.
Representatives for the property owners where Kroger and Publix are located have decried the long-term vision for Ashford-Dunwoody Road/Johnson Ferry Road intersection. The long-term concept was to let most north-south traffic circumvent the Johnson Ferry intersection completely by creating new roads behind the Publix grocery store and the Cambridge Square shopping center, where Kroger is the anchor store. The existing intersection would remain for shopping access and east-west traffic.
At Cambridge Square, an existing rear driveway would be turned into a road aligned with Woods Drive, which is a driveway into Blackburn Park, with a signalized intersection. At Publix, an existing partial driveway would become a full cut-through road aligned with Blair Circle.
At a City Council meeting last month, representatives from both the Cambridge Square and Publix properties said such a vision on the books would hurt their businesses and cause tenants to abandon their spaces.
Many residents have also showed up at council meeting to voice their opposition.
Councilmember Bates Mattison suggested that the corridor study include a clear message in an introduction or executive summary stating the city would work with property owners before any plans are implemented as a way to assuage anxiety.
City Manager Christian Sigman agreed that would be prudent, noting that the corridor study is a “visioning document” and that there will be public engagement before any plans in the study are developed.
Gresham, Smith and Partners conducted numerous public workshops and accepted public input over the year-long study. The idea of realigning the Johnson Ferry intersection was supported by a majority of people providing input, according to the draft study posted on the city’s website.
The short-term plans for the Johnson Ferry Road intersection that appear to be ready to be adopted by the council include: extending the right lane on northbound Ashford-Dunwoody Road from south of Publix to Johnson Ferry Road and restriping existing lanes to create one longer dedicated left turn lane and one left/through/right lane.
The short-term plan also includes relocating an existing narrow median divider to center line to prevent left turns into Publix from southbound Ashford-Dunwoody Road and separate northbound and southbound traffic; and improve the existing mid-block pedestrian crossing near Kadleston Way to include a small refuge island and pedestrian crossing signal.