Yvonne Williams
Yvonne Williams

The Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCIDs) continued their track record of success last year by making major transportation improvements that further enhance the competitive edge of the Perimeter Market, a premier location for businesses, and an emerging model livable center.

Great progress was made toward our No. 1 priority – improvements to the I-285/Ga. 400 Interchange.

At a news conference in May at the Georgia Capitol, Gov. Nathan Deal applauded the formation of a bipartisan “285@400 Interchange Partnership” of congressional, state and local elected officials and business organizations in multiple areas impacted by the interchange. He thanked the PCIDs for their commitment of $10 million in financial assistance to move the project forward, and $500,000 in research and data support.

In a subsequent newspaper editorial, Deal said that “Improvements to the I-285/Ga. 400 Interchange are a need, not a want.” The governor said “Georgia must direct its limited resources toward projects that provide the biggest return, both in mobility and in economic development. The I-285/Ga. 400 Interchange tops this priority list.”

Another significant development was the advancement of the project through placement in the Atlanta metro area’s short-range Transportation Improvement Plan.

Using a $2.8 million grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the PCIDs and the cities of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs took a big step toward improving traffic congestion in the Perimeter business district through the Perimeter Traffic Operations Program.

During its first year in 2013, PTOP completed the synchronization of the majority of 99 traffic signals along major, arterial corridors within and adjacent to the Perimeter business district. Many people are traveling through several cities to reach their destinations, so we needed to coordinate the timing of traffic signals across those boundaries.

Travel time studies conducted before and after the PTOP improvements show that average vehicular delay (stopped time) has been reduced 29 percent, and that drivers using the corridors during the morning, noon and evening peak periods will save 233,680 hours of travel time and 160,290 gallons of gasoline – valued at nearly $4 million – each year because of improved traffic flow. The timing plans pay for themselves approximately every 3.9 workdays.

Another major goal achieved was establishment of a communications link between a central traffic control center and 76 traffic signals within the PCIDs to allow active management of traffic operations. This means that when traffic backs up, signal timing can be immediately adjusted to improve traffic flow.

In early 2013, the PCIDs started a $4.86 million project to bring streetscape, intersection and roadway improvements to Lake Hearn Drive, Perimeter Summit Parkway and Parkside Place between Ashford Dunwoody Road and the Perimeter Center Parkway Bridge across I-285. These improvements make the area safer and more accessible for pedestrians, cyclists and cars, while promoting economic development on the south side of the Perimeter Market.

 Improvements to the I-285 and Ga. 400 Interchange are the No. 1 priority project for the Perimeter CIDs.
Improvements to the I-285 and Ga. 400 Interchange are the No. 1 priority project for the Perimeter CIDs.

The PCIDs created and installed a distinctive landscaping design to showcase the innovative Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) at I-285 and Ashford Dunwoody Road – a major gateway to the city of Dunwoody and the Perimeter Market.

In 2013, the Ashford Dunwoody DDI was one of 10 national finalists for “People’s Choice” and “Grand Prize” awards in an America’s Transportation Competition sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), AAA and the U.S. Chamber.

The PCIDs’ “Can You DDI?” education and marketing campaign received a prestigious Award of Excellence from the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America. Metro Atlanta TV coverage alone for the DDI bridge closing and crossover of traffic reached an audience of 7.44 million with 117 separate stories from May 21 to June 5, 2012. The Associated Press released the story statewide, and there was coverage in every major market of the state as well as national coverage from Chicago to Springfield, Mo., site of the first DDI in the U.S.

The PCIDs’ signature landscaping and branding of major entrances to the Perimeter market now also enhances the Hammond Half-Diamond Interchange at Hammond Drive and Ga. 400. GDOT awarded a grant to the PCIDs to provide the landscaping. The PCIDs also installed more durable, highly visible, brick-print pedestrian crosswalks.

The PCIDs’ past 13 years of work to transform Perimeter from a suburban, car-dependent to a livable, walkable community was recognized in a major study by George Washington University School of Business professor Chris Leinberger that was released last year by the ARC. Central Perimeter was named one of 27 regionally significant established Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs) in metro Atlanta, and one of only four “platinum” areas in an economic success ranking of those WalkUPs.

Today, thanks to the work of the PCIDs, Perimeter is a prime example of how the creation of a walkable, urban place is the most effective economic development strategy that a CID, a city or a region can pursue.

Improvements this year will include better access to the Dunwoody MARTA station through construction of the Hammond Drive mid-block crossing, which MARTA has identified as its top priority for pedestrian safety. With increasing workers in the vicinity, foot traffic is expected to soar.

The PCIDs will continue to administer the PTOP program in the second of its three-year program to improve traffic congestion through signal improvements, will begin design work on Lake Hearn Phase II streetscape, do intersection and roadway improvements on Lake Hearn Drive and Peachtree Dunwoody Road, and will develop a bicycle implementation strategy.

We will continue to advocate for I-285 and Ga. 400 improvements, expand and make improvements to the fiber optic network within the PCIDs, and develop a commuter trails shovel-ready design.

And, of course, the PCIDs will continue their long-standing programs to maintain medians and direct traffic at busy rush hour intersections through the use of off-duty police officers.

Economic development in Central Perimeter, one of the dominant office districts and employment centers in metro Atlanta, is driven in large part by the area’s central location in the region and its access to interstates, international and regional airports, and multiple modes of transportation including three MARTA transit stations.

The PCIDs play a crucial role in ensuring this access. We look forward to another successful year as we strive to create the premier livable center in the Southeast.