By Amy Wenk

This is the site plan the city of Roswell presented to the Sandy Springs City Council Feb. 16. Councilmembers criticized it for including two pedestrian/bicycle bridges, when they endorsed only one.

In 2012, walkers, runners and cyclists may find an easier route to Roswell and its riverside parks.

At their Feb. 16 meeting, Sandy Springs City Council discussed joining with the city of Roswell to build a 12-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the Chattahoochee River. The freestanding bridge would be constructed on the west side of the existing vehicular bridge on Roswell Road that joins the two cities.

“We believe connections are valuable,” said Roswell Director of Transportation Steven Acenbrak, who brought the proposal to the Sandy Springs council. “People will have more options and choices in getting around.”

Sandy Springs city officials voiced support for the $1.5 million project, but questioned the cost and design of the bridge.

Eighty percent of the money to pay for the proposed bridge would come from a $3 million federal earmark the city of Roswell received in 2004, Acenbrak said. The cities of Roswell and Sandy Springs would provide the rest, about $300,000.

“We do want to accommodate this in some way,” Mayor Eva Galambos told Acenbrak. “I think you can take back a positive message. But I don’t think we’ve sent you with a check.”

Since Sandy Springs has limited recreation areas, the bridge would offer residents easy access to popular Roswell parks on Azalea Drive and Riverside Road. The crossing would connect to existing trails on Azalea Drive that span miles along the river to the west and pass underneath the bridge to the east ,where old mill ruins are.

“The young city of Sandy Springs can increase accommodations for bicycles as a viable, healthy and green means of transportation, for recreation and exercise, for going to school, running errands or commuting to work,” said Sandy Springs cyclist Joe Seconder, who serves on the board of the Georgia Bicycle Alliance.

“What I liked about this … are the connecting possibilities for Island Ford and Morgan Falls (parks),” Dist.2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries said.

Acenbrak proposed Sandy Springs pay half of the cities’ share of the cost even though only 14 percent of the bridge would lie within city limits.

“We’d certainly like to partner with you,” Acenbrak said.

“We all think it’s a great idea,” Dist. 5 Councilman Tibby DeJulio said. “Before we are willing to commit to anything … we would like to see some more definitive plans.”

Acenbrak said Roswell will hire a consultant to determine project cost and design. An environmental assessment will begin.

“It was very clear that they largely approved the concept,” Acenbrak said later. “Now we begin the dialogue of how to share in the effort.”

He said Roswell will sponsor the building of the bridge, but the Georgia Department of Transportation would probably manage the construction.

Approval has already been secured from federal and state transportation agencies to use the earmarked funds to construct the bridge for pedestrian and bicycle use, Acenbrak said.

Roswell officials originally proposed building two bridges, one carrying northbound bicycles and pedestrians and the other carrying southbound riders and walkers.

But Sandy Springs leaders said they preferred one.

“Sandy Springs is not interested in this being on both sides of the [existing] bridge,” Fries said. “There is concern that locks us in, and we’ll never be able to widen that bridge.”

She said widening was only possible on the east side of the vehicular bridge.