By John Schaffner

After almost a year of intense study and community input, the final report and recommendations of the Piedmont Area Transportation Study creates a plan that, when implemented, will transform the Piedmont Road Corridor from I-85 to Roswell Road from an obsolete, heavily congested traffic artery to a more efficient multi-modal roadway.

That is the viewpoint of Scotty Greene, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), which funded the study, and Denise Starling, executive director of the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association (BATMA), which managed it.

The result of the study is a 20-year, $200 million plan encompassing almost 50 projects to achieve “mobility balance” by integrating improved roadway operations, transit access, pedestrian and bicycle networks with existing and projected land uses.

The recommendations include projects that can be done in the near term with available local and state resources and longer range projects that can be integrated into ongoing state, regional and city of Atlanta transportation planning efforts.

To residents, workers and visitors, the busy intersection of Peachtree and Piedmont roads in Buckhead is considered the intersection of “Main and Main,” which underscores the importance of the study.

Early in the study discussions, references to Piedmont Road being a “workhorse” street compared to Peachtree Road’s “show-horse” status were contradicted, Starling pointed out. Instead it was agreed that Piedmont Road would be improved not just to function more efficiently but to appeal to a broader group of users, she added.

Piedmont Road is one of Atlanta’s most important north-south corridors, connecting the State Capitol with Buckhead. But this study focused only on the portion of Piedmont located in Buckhead, where it carries 45,000 vehicles on a typical weekday with very congested conditions.

Approximately 450 Buckhead residents, commuters, employees, business and community leaders participated in the study over 12 months.

These are some of the highlights of the recommended projects:

–Construct major roadway connections that keep commuter traffic on the highways and interstates, such as completing the I-85/GA 400 interchange by constructing ramps from I-85 southbound to GA 400 northbound and from GA 400 southbound to I-85 northbound.

–Minimize traffic “choke points” by improving traffic flow through intersections and accommodate heavier southbound traffic. That can be accomplished by creating dedicated left-turn lanes at all major intersections, widening portions of Piedmont to create three lanes in each direction, retiming signals and converting lane uses to gain additional southbound capacity where widening is not an option.

–Enhance transportation alternatives such as express bus service, increased MARTA rail and bus service frequency and completing the I-85 HOV interchange to create lanes to/from I-85 south.

–Enhance transportation options within the Buckhead community, such as extending the BUC shuttle service, improving pedestrian safety with wider buffers and sidewalks, designing roadway sections to include future bike lanes, etc. and construct queue jumper lanes that allow buses a head start when traffic signals turn green.

One of the most controversial intersections during the study was the junction of Piedmont Road with Roswell and Habersham roads. The recommendation of the report is for further study of this intersection, although it is generally understood to be one of the most critically in need of a fix.

The report states that improvements to this triangle “should be made with strong consideration of the effects the low capacity roads of West Paces Ferry Road, Habersham Road and Powers Ferry Road have on the area. Those roads are said to be operating at or near capacity.

“A comprehensive approach should be made by the city of Atlanta to understand more fully travel patterns and needs of the commuters utilizing these alternatives to the freeway system,” the report states. “Alternatives for Cobb County and northwest commuters such as express bus and commuter rail should be investigated further.”

Items recommended as a guide to finding a long-term solution for the intersection that might be acceptable to all parties include:

–Create a grid system around the Tuxedo Festival property and adjacent properties, creating options for motorists to maneuver through the area.

–Add traffic signals at new intersections.

–Increase various turning bay lengths.

–Investigate ways to reduce single occupant vehicle trips in the area.

–Investigate express bus, commuter rail and other commuter transit alternatives.