Roswell commission report says residents misled by GDOT on Ga. 400 access lanes

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

The Georgia Department of Transportation project to build an express lanes interchange at Grimes Bridge Road is moving forward with no changes to prevent increased traffic from flowing onto the Roswell road.

During the summer, Roswell Mayor Kurt Wilson asked GDOT to revise plans for the access lanes. That request has officially been denied.

Roswell is planning to install traffic calming measures on Grimes Bridge that would help deter motorists from using the road as a faster way to get to downtown streets. Officials have not decided what those measures will be, Councilman Mike Palermo said.

The future access lanes to Grimes Bridge are part of GDOT’s $1.6 billion Ga. 400 Express Lanes project that will add 16 miles of toll lanes and four bus rapid transit stations. The new Grimes Bridge Road interchange will be located south of Holcomb Bridge Road.

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Roswell residents say they worry about disruption and cut-through traffic coming into the Grimes Bridge Road neighborhood. Since 2020, residents in subdivisions along the two-lane road have spoken in opposition of the project at city meetings. Nearly 500 signed a petition calling on Roswell and GDOT to cancel the Grimes Bridge portion of the express lanes roadwork.

“I think it will be disastrous because here we are with a little two-lane road that is dotted by neighborhoods,” said Karen Kaplan, a 33-year resident of the community. “This is a family-style road.

“The reality is there really isn’t a worse place to put the express lanes.”

The Roswell Transportation Advisory Commission sent a 43-page report to Mayor Kurt Wilson and City Council in August stating that GDOT showed a “lack of transparency” during its public outreach with residents, and in communicating the “impacts to local neighborhoods.”

The report asks Roswell to “... show us how you will resolve the problem of regional cut-through traffic in residential zoned areas.”

GDOT did not return emails and a phone call from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asking for a response to residents’ comments and issues raised in the report.

A July letter from GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry to Roswell officials denying the mayor’s request for tweaks to the Grimes Bridge Road project stated that GDOT has worked closely with Roswell on the project in “good faith” since 2017.

Palermo told the AJC that he finds the advisory commission report to be more opinion than fact but added: “Residents have some legitimate concerns” regarding increased traffic coming on to Grimes Bridge Road.

“We are focused on finding a way to deter cut-through traffic and protect the character of the neighborhoods,” he said.

In addition to the Grimes Bridge Road access lanes, GDOT plans to construct a new Holcomb Bridge Road interchange. Roswell has accepted $35 million from a 2020 intergovernmental agreement with the state, and agreed to contribute $15 million toward the Holcomb Bridge Road project as well as $2.5 million for aesthetics at the two interchanges.

Roswell’s traffic calming measures will be part of a $10.5 million city project to add bike and pedestrian paths, beautification and other enhancements to the neighborhood.

Resident Marisa Pereira, who serves on the advisory commission, said Roswell’s planned road enhancements are a positive move, but she takes issue with how GDOT has approached the express lanes project.

Pereira helped to compile the report and included GDOT documents that show the agency didn’t identify Grimes Bridge Road by name until this year. Officials at public meetings, as well as documents dating back to 2018 refer to the location as “South of Holcomb Bridge Road.”

The commission report includes a GDOT document of findings on alternative locations for the new access lanes instead of Grimes Bridge. Mansell Road in Alpharetta is listed as an alternative that was considered but the document appears to inaccurately state that Roswell residents had input and were against using that location instead of Grimes Bridge Road.

Credit: Courtesy Roswell/GDOT

Credit: Courtesy Roswell/GDOT

The GDOT document reads:Coordination with Roswell indicated that previous outreach did not support access to (State Route) 400 in this area.”

“Roswell can’t give them any feedback regarding Mansell because that is not Roswell’s jurisdiction, so that data is flawed,” Pereira said.

Pereira also complained that GDOT’s data on positive support of the Grimes Bridge Road express lanes was conflated with support for other parts of the GDOT project.

Palermo said he was not aware of Roswell being involved in GDOT discussions on Mansell Road.

“(GDOT is) supposed to show that they’ve done due diligence,” Pereira said. “But what they don’t realize is people are actually looking at this data.”