Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly described what Roswell had asked residents in a survey. One of the questions asked whether Roswell residents wanted to make a similarly-sized monetary investment in new bridges compared to the price of a bridge in Alpharetta.
After months of negotiation with state road builders, Roswell leaders are still trying to figure out how to make the most of its “once-in-a-lifetime” chance to make city entrances welcoming.
Three Roswell City Council members at a Wednesday morning meeting decided they did want to improve the look of the plain bridges the Georgia Department of Transportation are building as part of the roadwork underway on Ga. 400.
Roswell’s leaders are just considering the pricetag for beautification of the bridges, but the discussion began with GDOT’s work on one of North Fulton’s most transformational road projects, the Ga. 400 Express Lanes. The state agency is set to spend $1.6 billion for 16 miles of new toll lanes on Ga. 400 between the North Springs MARTA station and McFarland Parkway.
The state is building the bridges, but costs for all aesthetic add-ons — railings, lights, landscaping, crosswalks — will come out of Roswell’s wallet.
After a 50-slide presentation Wednesday, the council members decided to spend no more than $2.7 million of city money on a bridge design. They plan to meet again before the Dec. 9 council meeting where a final vote, and a final price, is expected.
The Wednesday meeting included a presentation of results from a survey that was recently open to the public to get their thoughts on how much they want to spend for the design of three bridges, including the two GDOT is building over Ga. 400: at Holcomb Bridge Road and the express lane bridge connecting Grimes Bridge Road and Old Alabama Road.
The 950 survey responses show there are mixed opinions about spending money on the style of bridges. Many said they wanted more options. But about 90% said it was very important or somewhat important for the city to invest in making the new Ga. 400 bridges look better.
When shown a picture of Alpharetta’s Encore Parkway bridge and told the aesthetic upgrades cost more than $4 million, three-quarters of respondents supported a similarly-sized monetary investment in each of Roswell’s upcoming bridges.
As with this entire Ga. 400 express lane process, there has been a ticking clock to finish soon with the wildly complex project. The city agreed to give GDOT an answer by the end of the year on how it wants its bridges to look.
Some council members were not happy with that. Councilman Matt Tyser said he didn’t understand why GDOT needed the money now when dirt won’t be moved until 2023.
The $2.7 million is basically a deposit, said city’s transportation head Muhammad Rauf. If the city wants to agree to pay more to lock in all its design plans, that could lead to overall savings to the city, Rauf said.
This last-minute deal-making has been symptomatic of Northside cities negotiating over the Ga. 400 Express Lane project.
The new interchange at Holcomb Bridge Road will cost at least $60 million.
Roswell was the first to start talking to GDOT about how to make the Ga. 400 express lane project work for them. Sandy Springs had thoughts. So did Alpharetta. The Fulton County School District also had complaints.
But in the end, GDOT moved forward. The agency in October moved back the timeline on $11 billion worth of projects, including the Ga. 400 express lanes originally slated to finish in 2024. That was pushed back to 2027. Part of the reason for the delay is because the industry would have been inundated with contracts.
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