The Brookhaven City Council is set to approve a $129,500 transit feasibility study at its July 24 meeting to assess transit options from Tucker to Smyrna as part of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s I-285 Top End Express Lanes Project.

The contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates and Moreland Altobelli for the study is the result of meetings initiated last year by Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst with other top end mayors from Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Chamblee, Doraville, Smyrna, Tucker as well as Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCID) and the Cumberland Community Improvement Districts (CCID).

The seven cities and PCIDs and CCIDs will share costs of the contract. The seven cities will pay according to their population, with Brookhaven slated to pay approximately $16,000, according to documents filed with the July 24 Brookhaven City Council agenda. Brookhaven is responsible for entering into the contract on behalf of the other cities.

Kimley-Horn outlined what the transit study will include in a June 19 letter to Ernst, including facilitating three meetings with the mayors and city staff members; a preliminary feasibility analysis and comparison of light rail transit (LRT) versus bus rail transit (BRT); potential special service district funding and revenue; and identifying next steps.

Various forms of mass transit and alternative transportation along and around I-285 have been proposed over the years, including multiuse trails, trains and even monorails. Last year’s opening of SunTrust Park in Cobb County raised the issue again, and there is a growing sense of urgency as the state plans to widen and add ramps to the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange take more right of way.

Questions are also being raised by Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs about where the access points for the managed lanes will be located.

The I-285 Top End Express Lanes is a Georgia DOT project planned to improve mobility along the I-285 top end in metro Atlanta. More than 240,000 vehicles travel across this stretch of highway every weekday, according to GDOT.

The project focuses on adding two new elevated, barrier-separated express lanes in both directions of I-285, alongside the existing general purpose lanes.

The I-285 top end express lanes are still in the preliminary stages and nothing has been set in stone, but GDOT is already acquiring right-of-way where needed and is expected to begin the design process in 2020, a GDOT representative recently told Brookhaven officials. There will be more time for public input as well, according to GDOT.

The managed lanes are a separate project from Transform 285/400 project that would add even more lanes — four on each highway — in construction that could take a decade. The concept of the project is to allow toll-paying drivers to speed through the interchange in dedicated, entirely separate lanes, and is being touted by GDOT as a reliable way to get to where motorists want to go on time.

The elevated lanes near the proposed interchanges are GDOT’s way to reduce taking city right-of-way, Matthews told Brookhaven council members.

The I-285 Top End Express Lanes will be part of the larger Georgia Express Lanes system, designed to provide drivers more reliable trip times. Transit riders and state registered vanpools can utilize the express lanes at no additional cost.

The project is part of Georgia DOTs Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP), which currently includes 11 large-scale projects.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.