Sandy Springs wary of Cobb plan for Braves traffic

Sandy Springs officials are closing ranks with their Cobb counterparts just days after condemning a controversial plan to route traffic to the new Braves baseball stadium through their district.

The plan would direct some game day traffic heading west on Interstate-285 to exit at New Northside Drive in Sandy Springs onto Interstate North Parkway, the access road, before entering Cobb County.

“It was not taken well,” said Jim Wilgus, Cobb’s interim transportation director. Wilgus was on the receiving end of intense questioning at a Tuesday meeting by the Sandy Springs mayor and city council who expressed concern about the effect on nearby city neighborhoods.

By Thursday, the mood appeared to have shifted. Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee issued a joint statement following a meeting.

“We have work to do, but we are committed to collaborating with Cobb County in developing viable solutions that create a win-win scenario for both communities,” Paul said in the statement. He did not respond to a request to be interviewed and it was unclear from the statement whether he would seek a different route from the one proposed by Cobb.

Wilgus said directing traffic through Sandy Springs onto Interstate North Parkway would help manage the inevitable flow of vehicles through the area.

“If you’ve got [GPS] and you put your location, that’s how it’s going to take you,” Wilgus said.

He expressed surprise at the force of Mayor Paul's reaction, noting that Cobb and local municipalities, including Sandy Springs, have held quarterly meetings for the past two years to discuss progress on the stadium and related infrastructure and traffic plans.

Speaking to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Thursday’s meeting, Lee declined to discuss details of the proposed traffic plan, echoing the joint statement in emphasizing cooperation between the two jurisdictions.

“The whole conversation was about how do we move forward and what do we need to do to work together,” Lee said, adding that the traffic plan would be developed by the Cobb and Sandy Springs staff.

The stretch of road in question, Interstate North Parkway between Exit 22 off I-285 and Cobb, is home to several office parks, a local branch of the National Park Service and a gas station, and a mere stone’s throw from the the quiet, wooded neighborhoods off Northside Drive.

People who live and work in the area are worried about the potential impact of traffic congestion on game days, and some are even looking to get out from under the shadow of the stadium.

Rickney Jones commutes an hour from Conley, southeast of Atlanta, to one of the office buildings on Interstate North Parkway.

“It’s definitely going to impact me,” said Jones, adding that she is considering other employment options in different parts of the city. “This [the stadium] kinda broke the camel’s back because I already have a long commute.”

Braves President of Development Mike Plant issued a statement saying the team understands that there are traffic concerns associated with the stadium and is working with local governmental partners to address them. He said the Braves would release an update on its transportation efforts in Cobb and surrounding municipalities in the coming weeks.