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)
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.”