Marlo Clowers, right, discusses the Transform 285/400 project with Dunwoody Springs residents at a neighborhood meeting held March 27. (Evelyn Andrews)

Residents near Sandy Springs’ Crestline Parkway recently held a community meeting to push back on a plan Sandy Springs is considering that would build a toll lane interchange along or through their neighborhood.

About 50 residents in Dunwoody Springs, a neighborhood south of Crestline Parkway and directly east of Ga. 400, showed up to a March 26 meeting the community association requested with the Georgia Department of Transportation, thinking it would be about the agency’s plan to build toll lanes along the highway. But GDOT is working on another major nearby project rebuilding the I-285/Ga.400 interchange and thought the neighborhood wanted to hear about that, not the toll lanes.

Once the miscommunication was realized, many residents, who said they came out largely to hear about the Crestline proposal, left after expressing skepticism and concern about the interchange option. The meeting was held in the Dunwoody Springs’ neighborhood clubhouse.

The toll lanes, called “express lanes” or “managed lanes,” are proposed by the Georgia Department of Transportation in two projects that would add four new toll lanes along I-285 and Ga. 400 in the Perimeter Center area over the next decade, starting with a northern section of Ga. 400 in 2021.

One big issue still being discussed for both projects is where access points may be. Sandy Springs has been privately negotiating with GDOT for at least eight months about a possible access point at Crestline Parkway option that would require the demolition of an eight-unit townhome building, documents obtained by the Reporter revealed. GDOT says it is willing to consider using Crestline, rather than its preferred proposal to use Mount Vernon Highway, if the city agrees to cover the extra expense.

Crestline is an L-shaped road that connects Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Highway to the east of Ga. 400. Interchange studies have called it “underutilized.”

Marlo Clowers, the project manager for Transform 285/400, the name of the intersection rebuild project, said GDOT is able to hold another meeting with the neighborhood to answer the questions they thought they’d get to ask that night. Clowers said she’d pass on the information that the neighborhood is interested in hearing about the Crestline intersection, to which a resident responded, “Well, you can tell them we don’t want it.”

A plan for a proposed Ga. 400 toll lanes interchange on Crestline Parkway as it appears in a draft study performed for the city of Sandy Springs and obtained by the Reporter.

The toll lanes have become controversial because they could cause displacements, noise and other major property impacts.  GDOT has revealed it would need to demolish more than 40 homes and other buildings for just one section of Ga. 400 toll lanes.

And eight more townhomes could be added if Sandy Springs chooses the Crestline option. The city has said it is trying to suggest changes that could make the project better for the community, and is currently awaiting a study of the options to finish before it makes a decision.

“GDOT is focused on the cheapest, simplest solution. It may not be the best solution for the community, and that’s where we come in,” said Mayor Rusty Paul at the March 19 City Council meeting.

A resident, who did not want her name used, said she feared the interchange could ruin the neighborhood’s character.

“It’s a beautiful, small street now,” she said. “This would ruin it.”

If Crestline is chosen, it would take one townhome building in a complex of six.

“What are the people left going to do? Just have a ramp running next to their house?” the resident said.

The plan for an alternative toll lanes interchange on both Crestline Parkway and Barfield Road as it appears in the study.

She said she lives on Dunwoody Springs Drive and her property would be taken if a second, larger alternative interchange is eventually built. That plan uses both Crestline and Barfield Road as access points, with the new toll lanes running on the outside of Ga. 400, and a new bridge spanning the entire highway. It was rejected as too expensive, at least for now.

To the east, that alternative would create a more radical street change, reconfiguring Crestline Parkway and the nearby Dunwoody Springs Drive into a large, X-shaped intersection. Dunwoody Springs Drive would serve as the main access point. Several duplexes on that street, a townhomes building on Crestline, and a hotel on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road appear to be within the right of way.

Another resident who lives on Crestline in a property that would not be taken for interchange said she fears the impacts it could bring, including seeing a ramp from her house.