Tempers flare at Sandy Springs traffic forum over Braves stadium

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Tempers flare at Sandy Springs traffic forum over Braves stadium

About 250 residents packed the theater at Riverwood International High School Wednesday evening to voice concerns about the looming traffic influx. The Braves are slated to throw out the first pitch in SunTrust Park next April, but residents said they remain perplexed on how the ball club was able to move forward with construction without fully addressing traffic needs.

Cobb County, Sandy Springs, several state lawmakers and the officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation were on hand to answer questions. But, the crowd’s biggest grievance was the Braves’ absence from the town hall.   

Some residents shouted down public officials, particular Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, as he tried to clarify possible solutions to ease traffic pains.

The $672-million stadium complex will rest in the Cumberland area near I-285 and I-75. That interchange is already rife with traffic during peak rush hours, and Sandy Springs residents said they fear unwarranted game-day traffic will come through their neighborhoods, exacerbating the problem.

Another resident asked if Cobb County and the Braves would “share the love” and help Sandy Springs monetarily with proposed traffic adjustments, adding there is concern about lesser-experienced teenage drivers traveling Riverwood high school alongside game-day traffic.

Some audience members suggested closing Heards Ferry Road to address this problem, but Paul said randomly closing streets isn’t lawful. “If you close it to one person you have to close it to everybody.”

Residents also revisited the alleged “backroom deals” between Cobb County government and the Braves to bring the ball club to the region in 2013. Cobb County residents ousted former chairman Tim Lee, who orchestrated the deal to bring the Braves to Cobb, largely because residents were not given a say in the move.

Longtime Sandy Springs resident Willis “Bill” Cleveland said the contention surrounding the Braves stadium was unavoidable due to decades of neglect by local governments to fix regional transportation.

“The preponderance of traffic that’s being generated is regional traffic, and Cobb has kind of walled itself off from the rest of the region,” Cleveland said.  “What the next 10 planners are telling us is you’re going to see constant road traffic in Sandy Springs just for the fact, as Cobb builds … they’re going to drive what we’re going to have to spend on infrastructure.”

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