Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional information from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to replace the parking lot at the Amtrak station in Buckhead, but nearby residents worry its plans will disrupt their neighborhoods.
The parking area is actually an old part of the Peachtree Road bridge crossing I-85. The ceiling, which is currently closed, rains chunks of concrete onto the trains as they pass underneath, DOT officials and residents said. David Spear, a press secretary for DOT, said the structure of the parking area has nothing to do with the structure of the Peachtree bridge. He said there is no concern regarding the structural soundness of the Peachtree Road bridge.
Metro District Engineer Bryant Poole and local residents said DOT’s plan is to close Deering Road where it connects to Peachtree adjacent to the train station to install a large crane to help replace the bridge
Poole said the work could start as early as spring 2012 and project manager Albert Shelby said DOT estimates the work would take six months. Shelby indicated the road would not be closed for that entire time, but said he would have more specifics in September when plans and staging are worked out.
Poole said he is aware that residents of Loring Heights and Brookwood neighborhoods are concerned about the effect closing the road will have on them. Ron Grunwald, president of the Loring Heights Neighborhood Association, and Shelby said the proposed detour would take drivers down Standish Avenue to 25th street to Peachtree.
Loring Heights is west across I- 75. The neighborhood includes streets that intersect with Deering between I-75 and Northside Drive. Brookwood includes 25th and 26th streets and Standish and Alden avenues.
“Last summer, we had a three-month shutdown of Deering,” Grunwald said. “The detour came on one of our quiet side streets. It was an absolute nightmare. We got very little help from [the city of Atlanta’s department of] public works to police the situation.”
Diane Cox, Brookwood Civic Association President, said she and Grunwald have met with officials of the public works department and DOT to plead their case.
“Our biggest concern is people will come all the way up Deering, realize they can’t get to Peachtree and divert themselves through our neighborhood,” she said. “That’s going to be absolutely disastrous.”
Cox and Grunwald said they’ve proposed alternatives to DOT that wouldn’t involve closing that portion of the road. One suggestion is closing one lane of Peachtree and parking the crane on it and the adjacent sidewalk.
Cox said DOT routinely places nets under aging overpasses to catch falling chunks of concrete and asked why the same thing couldn’t be done at the Amtrak station. Grunwald said if Deering has to be closed, he’d like ample signage to let people know that the road is closed and police presence to help direct traffic.
Both asked why DOT would replace the bridge when Amtrak is considering moving to another location in Atlanta. Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds said Amtrak is, “actively evaluating potential station facility improvement options in Atlanta. The location (if the station is relocated from the existing site) and design of any future facility or upgrade plans for the existing facility have not been finalized.”
“If it’s that close to being closed, we don’t see the need to fix it,” Cox said.
Spear said Amtrak’s decision would factor in to DOT’s plans.
“If Amtrak were to solidify plans to relocate between now and our anticipated start of work next spring or summer, we would have to re-evaluate whether there was a need to proceed with this work, although in all likelihood we at least would need to remove the existing structure,” he said.
Poole said DOT is listening to the residents’ concerns.
“We have been advised it’s everyone’s desire that, if the bridge is replaced, to do the work as quickly as possible,” he said. “All of the stakeholders, including the community, have been kept abreast of this.”