by John F. Schaffner

Work will begin in February or March on Phase II of the Buckhead Boulevard project, which will continue the streetscape and traffic flow improvements on a mile-long stretch of Peachtree Road that passes Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls, the head of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) said.

Construction is expected to take two years to complete, CID executive director Jim Durrett told the Buckhead Business Association on Dec. 17. The work will extend the Buckhead Boulevard project from the Ga. 400 bridge to Roxboro Road, which is twice as long as the completed Phase I section from Maple Drive (one block south of Piedmont Road) to the Ga. 400 bridge.

Speaking on “Quality of Life and Buckhead’s Immediate Future,” Durrett, who took over in September as head of the CID, outlined at least a half-dozen road and streetscape projects district officials are working on.

“What we are doing here in Buckhead,” he said, “is trying to provide a place that works for people, not just for cars… but it works better for cars, too.”

The CID is a district in which the commercial property owners choose to tax themselves an additional 3 mils to pay for improvements within the district. Durrett said most CIDs spend their funds on transportation improvements.

Work on the Buckhead CID’s signature project, the Buckhead Boulevard, started in the early 2000s. Bids for the second phase of construction were opened on Dec. 11. The low bidder was the same contractor that did the first phase of the project. “We are extremely pleased about that,” said Durrett.

The $52 million Peachtree Boulevard project addresses traffic congestion and outdated design of the state arterial road, which “is really the only way we have to get from east to west through the Buckhead district,” Durrett said.

“It was not functioning as a transportation facility, which is what it was built to do,” he said. “It was unfriendly to pedestrians.”

The project improves traffic control, left-turn access management, re-engineers intersections, lighting, transit access and creates sidewalks, bike lanes and larger green spaces.

“The benefits are that we are creating transportation alternatives,” Durrett stated. “There is a lot of energy on the street these days.”

Phase III, which will run from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn Avenue, will be built in two or three years, Durrett said, It will differ from the first two phases because of the nature of development along that stretch and will not have bike lanes.

He told the group of about 100 business representatives at the Dec. 17 meeting that the Buckhead Village streetscape projects the CID had planned for were made part of the Streets of Buckhead development and thus have been on hold as construction of that project also has been on hold. Durrett said the funds are still available for the streetscape projects there and the CID now is looking at doing something with those streetscape plans in the near future—perhaps including some activity in 2010.

Other projects the CID is promoting, he said, include work on Piedmont Road from Peachtree to I-85 that would be a similar treatment to that on Peachtree; improvements to the intersections of Piedmont Road with Roswell and Habersham roads, which could take place by 2013; and a $23 million pedestrian brid1ge across Ga. 400 from behind Tower Place to the Buckhead MARTA rail station, which is now being designed and could start in 2012.

“I think 2010 and beyond is going to be a great period of opportunity,” Durrett stated.

Asked about the Ga. 400/I-85 interchange ramps long sought by Buckhead leaders, Durrett said, “It is a real project. We have to figure out how to fund it and we have to figure out what we are going to do with the traffic that we may have to pull off of Ga. 400 so that people can still get north to south from Ga. 400 to I-85 during the construction period in a way that doesn’t disrupt neighborhoods.”Peachtree Boulevard II first of many CID projects