By Joe Earle

Howard Austin sees the need to widen the Roswell Road bridge across I-285. These days, the Sandy Springs resident avoids the bridge any time he can. Too much traffic backs up there.
“I think it’s desperately needed,” Austin said during a public presentation Jan. 26 of the city of Sandy Springs’ $4 million bridge-widening project. “I think this will improve it.”
But John Harof, director of operations/Atlanta for Ruth’s Chris Steak House, sees the city’s widening plan as a potential disaster for his business. The plan includes the addition of a median in Roswell Road that will prevent left turns into the restaurant.
“It’s going to kill us,” Harof said.
Harof said business already is down through 2009 due to the general slowdown in the economy. “To have another obstacle put in front of us is not going to help us recover,” he said.
The city plans to widen the Roswell Road bridge to 86 feet from its present 64 feet. The bridge will be reconfigured from five 10-foot-wide lanes to six 11-foot-wide lanes, city representatives said during the public presentation attended by about three dozen people.
The new lane will be used as an added dedicated left-turn lane, allowing cars headed toward the Interstate to have dedicated turn lanes heading in either direction. The current, single left-turn lane now is shared by cars headed east and those headed west.
The project will include sidewalks on both sides of the bridge and widen ramps onto the interstate so that more cars may line up to get onto the interstate before traffic backs up onto Roswell Road. The project also will add medians in segments of Roswell Road leading to the bridge, which will prevent left turns into Allen Road, Carpenter Drive and Northwood Drive.
City officials say the work is needed to improve traffic flow and cut down on accidents. About 180 accidents occur on the bridge each year, said project manager Keith P. Kunst of Arcadis, an engineering company.
They hope to begin construction in September and to complete the project in about a year.
The sooner the better, several residents said as they reviewed the widening plans.
“It’s a horrible problem,” said Melody Euchman of Sandy Springs, who said she drives the Roswell Road bridge every day to get to work.
What did she think of the widening plan? “I like it,” she said. “I think the idea is quick, fast, cheap and immediate.”