A long-awaited study of widening a narrow stretch of Sandy Springs’ Hammond Drive is finally out for bids, with a deadline of June 6. Meanwhile, the city has bought yet another house to land-bank in anticipation of the possible widening, which could include a mass transit route as well.

City officials have insisted that the study will determine whether any widening should happen, though they clearly favor it in some form.

The house at 436 Hammond Drive in photos contained in city documents about the sale.

Hammond Drive is a major east-west connection between Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs and Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody. Most of Hammond has been expanded to various widths over the years, but the section between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive in the Glenridge Hammond neighborhood remains two lanes. Government officials frequently call it a traffic bottleneck, but the widening idea – which would require tearing down dozens of houses – is controversial among locals, who question its need.

Studying the widening idea and acquiring more property was a combo project on the list for a transportation special local option sales tax approved by voters in 2016.

The city’s bid seeks engineering firms to study the roughly 1-mile stretch of Hammond between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive. The work must include a “detailed traffic study” and can propose sidewalks, bicycle lanes, multi-use trails and bus or shuttle lanes.

The city also notes that the state plans to build controversial “managed lanes” on Ga. 400 over the next decade. Managed lanes are toll lanes accessed via special ramps that could tower 30 feet or higher over neighborhoods. The city has proposed that if managed lanes must come, Hammond Drive’s current interchanges could be a good spot to connect them. The Hammond widening study bid says the winning firm must be ready for alternative designs with and without those managed-lane interchanges.

The final study will have to include timelines for building its features. The process must include various public input meetings.

In recent years, the city has spent millions of dollars to acquire residential properties along that stretch of Hammond in anticipation of the possible widening. The idea is to buy properties before a particular project and rising land values make it even more expensive.

On May 15, the City Council voted to buy yet another house, at 436 Hammond, for $425,000.

The council previously agreed that if any Hammond houses it purchases cost less to repair than to demolish, those houses would be rented to public safety officers at affordable rates. Many city police officers and firefighters cannot afford to live in Sandy Springs. As an experiment, the city last year began renting one of the houses to a police officer for $500 a month.

At the May 15 council meeting, City Manager John McDonough said that 436 Hammond looks like a good candidate for that public-safety affordable rental program as well.

John Ruch

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