Grimes Bridge Road neighbors press Roswell on traffic woes expected from new Ga. 400 interchange

Roswell officials signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Georgia Department of Transportation in October on new access lanes at Grimes Bridge Road, . which will run parallel to busy Ga. 400. Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2022 and be completed in late 2026. Grimes Bridge Road, a corridor of homes with schools and an adult recreation center for senior citizens, . will be one of four access points for the Ga. 400 Express Lanes, a $1.6 billion project adding 16 miles of toll lanes and four bus rapid transit stations. Residents living blocks from Ga. 400 on Grimes Bridge Road and in several subdivisions along the corridor are pressing city and . state officials to address their concerns and calling for a public forum where questions on the project can be answered directly. The access lanes would allow motorists to travel to streets on the east and west side of Ga. 400, . Which Roswell Transportation Director Mohammad Rauf says would help prevent a concentration of traffic on any one of them

A Roswell neighborhood riled by an expected increase in traffic from planned Ga. 400 Express Lanes is demanding answers, and potential solutions, from the city.

Roswell officials signed an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the Georgia Department of Transportation in October on new access lanes at Grimes Bridge Road, which will run parallel to busy Ga. 400. Construction is expected to begin at the end of 2022 and be completed in late 2026.

Grimes Bridge Road, a corridor of homes with schools and an adult recreation center for senior citizens, will be one of four access points for the Ga. 400 Express Lanes, a $1.6 billion project adding 16 miles of toll lanes and four bus rapid transit stations between the North Springs MARTA station and McFarland Parkway in Forsyth County. Traveling north, the new Grimes Bridge Road interchange would be located before Holcomb Bridge Road. Other planned Ga. 400 interchanges are at North Springs MARTA Station, Tradewinds Parkway and Union Hill Road.

Residents living blocks from Ga. 400 on Grimes Bridge Road and in several subdivisions along the corridor are pressing city and state officials to address their concerns and calling for a public forum where questions on the project can be answered directly.

Roswell Mayor Lori Henry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via email that she plans to push for traffic studies and include more public input when officials address the fiscal year 2022 budget. Residents said they are skeptical the mayor will follow through.

About 15 public meetings have been held in Roswell since 2018 on aspects of the Ga. 400 Express Lanes project, but neighbors such as Marisa Pereira complained that some meetings didn’t initially identify Grimes Bridge Road.

Pereira said July, when the budget would be passed, is too long to wait to address the degree to which Grimes Bridge Road access lanes will affect neighborhood traffic.

“We’ve been burned so many times,” Pereira said. “There is money in this year’s budget to get the ball rolling. What we are hoping is if we get started in 2021 then when 2022 comes, the ball is already rolling. That is our goal.”

Roswell Transportation Director Mohammad Rauf said during an October City Council meeting that the best approach to the new access lanes was to wait and see what infrastructure problems arise when they are built. He and Henry now say traffic studies and steps, such as speeding and traffic control measures, pedestrian crossings and more, would likely happen before construction of the access lanes.

The access lanes would allow motorists to travel to streets on the east and west side of Ga. 400, which Rauf says would help prevent a concentration of traffic on any one of them. The access lanes would allow motorists driving south to get on Ga. 400 using one lane, or to leave the highway by two lanes if traveling north.

GDOT will build the Grimes Bridge Road access lanes under the intergovernmental agreement. And Roswell agreed to pay $2.5 million for aesthetics there and at a new Holcomb Bridge Road interchange that GDOT plans to construct. Roswell will contribute $15 million toward the Holcomb Bridge Road project and GDOT will spend $35 million.

Three City Council members, Christine Hall, Marcelo Zapata and Mike Palermo told the AJC they wanted the city to come up with solutions for potential Grimes Bridge Road traffic problems with funds that are going to bonuses for city employees earning over $100,000 per year.

“We have to come up with mitigation options. We need to have a more proactive approach,” said Zapata, who voted against the intergovernmental agreement in October.

Grimes Bridge Road is a narrow corridor weaving west from Dogwood Road near Ga. 400 to Holcomb Bridge Road. Neighbors say the access lanes will result in more motorists using the road as a cut-through to downtown Roswell.

Grimes Bridge Road in Roswell loops west from near Georgia 400 to Holcomb Bridge Road. (Image from Google Maps)
Grimes Bridge Road in Roswell loops west from near Georgia 400 to Holcomb Bridge Road. (Image from Google Maps)

Resident Jessica Bowman said she’s troubled that northbound motorists will have limited options to exit the Ga. 400 Express Lanes and will use Grimes Bridge Road. For example, motorists heading to the North Point Mall area in the express lanes would have to exit them before Northridge or Haynes Bridge Roads. They wouldn’t be able to move into the general purpose lanes to get off at Mansell Road.

Three schools along Grimes Bridge Road already bring a backup of traffic in the mornings and afternoons as parents pick up and drop off their children, residents said.

“The frustration has been how this came about,” resident Loran Cowen said. ”We are not a bunch of residents complaining about it because it’s in our backyard.”

Cowen said she had been following GDOT and Roswell DOT information on the Ga. 400 Express Lanes project and the new Holcomb Bridge Road interchange for at least a year before she understood that references to access lanes “south of Holcomb Bridge Road” meant her neighborhood would be affected.

Cowen, Pereira and more community members have coordinated their efforts in raising objections to the Grimes Bridge Road access lanes. The neighbors routinely make consecutive public comments during City Council meetings on the issue. Several have had meetings with Henry. And they turned to state Sen. John Albers, who told the AJC he’s hosted or attended meetings that included homeowner associations groups and city and GDOT officials.

“I have requested we look at all options as well as answer all the important questions the HOAs have brought forward,” Albers said via email.

Zapata, Hall and Palermo said they support a public forum in which residents can ask questions about the access lanes and have them answered by GDOT and Roswell DOT officials.

“I think the city can and should do a better job in communicating with residents,” Hall said. “It’s just such a big group of people taken aback (by the new access lanes), that means there’s something wrong.”

In Other News