By Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul

Editor’s Note: Mayor Paul adapted this column from his “State of the City” address on Feb. 23.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul

Congestion is the most important challenge we face as a community. Without constructing another building in Sandy Springs, traffic will, in fact, get worse. The growth rate of metro Atlanta’s population is twice the national average, with our numbers expected to rise from 6 million to 10 million during the next 20 years.

We must change the way we move people or traffic will drown us, because we cannot move that many people in one-person-per-vehicle increments.

I am a strong advocate for extending MARTA as far north as we can. We also need an east-west MARTA line connecting the Doraville station with the I-75 area. (Note: Since Mayor Paul’s “State of the City” address, the Georgia Senate killed the MARTA extension bill for this legislative session.)

A recent study conducted under “Next Ten,” our long-range land use reform effort, shows that 70 percent of Sandy Springs residents would avoid driving if they had a timely, safe and efficient option that took them where they want to go. That’s a reflection of how difficult it is to drive around here and the evolving attitude change toward transit. The study also found that reducing vehicular traffic by just 10 percent would profoundly ease congestion.

To help put that into perspective: how well do you know the precise time school starts and stops? Your morning commute knows. A back-of-the-envelope calculation shows approximately 10,000 Sandy Springs public and private school students arrive by car each day, which translates into 40,000 vehicular trips a day (school, and back in the morning and afternoon). That is the traffic equivalent of a sold-out Falcons game five days a week, nine months a year.

Even if we get a MARTA extension approved, 10 years will pass before transit moves a single new passenger in our area. We can’t wait 10 years for congestion relief.

Gov. Deal gave us a great gift in the rebuild of the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange and the managed lanes for Ga. 400 and I-285. But the interchange help is four years away and the managed lanes even longer. Short term, we will experience disruption that always accompanies massive road projects. In the meantime, the Fulton County Commission and the county’s 14 mayors are working toward a program to generate more resources for intermediate road improvements. If voters approve, the north Fulton cities, rather than spend their allocation only in their jurisdictions, are developing a plan to allocate some of those resources toward coordinated regional transportation projects.

Regional solutions are vital to easing local congestion. A recent study measured 102,000 daily trips coming from outside Sandy Springs into the city and another 84,000 trips leaving Sandy Springs for other locations. Only 7,000 daily commutes stay solely within the city.

In other words, other communities flood Sandy Springs with traffic, while simultaneously, our residents congest other communities with our drivers. State law requires a unanimous vote by all 14 mayors and the county commission to present voters with a plan; it is a near impossible bar to cross in a diverse county with varied needs and opinions. Yet, we are working diligently to get there.

The final piece is Perimeter area traffic reduction. Working with Dunwoody, Brookhaven and the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, we are looking for innovative solutions for moving people within the corridor, called “last mile connectivity.” It’s about connecting Perimeter MARTA stations and large area employment centers more efficiently.

This is where the media picked up our conversations about monorails, gondolas and other non-traditional transit forms. Candidly, we are investigating all possible options for cost-effective, practical ways to move large volumes of people without engaging the street network. Plus, we may find a way to make travel there less grueling and more fun.

Will it work? We don’t know yet. However, we would be remiss if we don’t consider all alternatives and seriously ascertain whether they are viable for this unique district within our community.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

4 replies on “Sandy Springs mayor: Traffic is a challenge”

  1. Now there is a Mayor we can be proud of !! After being totally drunk on new dollars and throwing upon the populace more traffic than can possibly be handled, he tells us that traffic is going to get worse !!

    Do you feel respected? Do you think this guy and this Council cares? Do you have children? Are you forced to privately educate them? Do you feel swindled that Mercedes tells its employees to buy homes in Cobb County (a f t e r this Mayor rolled out the red carpet for them)? This is the guy who steered it all and I wonder … who among us feels it is progress!

    The schools are abysmal and an outright shame! A SHAME !! I am of the opinion, Mr Mayor and City Council that each and every one of you should be ashamed !!! Do you hear anyone talking about or concentrating on that ? PLEASE remember all this at election time !!!

    Now, call me dumb but, here is a novel approach to consider … how about adding significant fees to new development for the purpose of street improvement ? Here’s another … how about making some r e a l planning BEFORE new development begins. Lastly … it sure would be nice if the City itself performed as promised (i.e. Roswell Rd and Windsor Parkway where street was promised BEFORE mixed use project was completed and, STILL is undone) once in a while !

    Mr, Mayor … YOU’ve bent over time and time again for those new tax dollars, more development, and corporations (i.e. Mercedes) who take and take and laugh at “us” and, this administration and, t h i s mess IS yours and, the basis for your “legacy” … thanks for preparing it for US !!!

    I for one am fed up with those who lie to us without apology, have NO vision, and care little for quality of life issues and, most importantly our children.

    Try your best Mr. Mayor to summon you some backbone … it might be fun to live proudly as a real man who actually cares about the folks who followed and believed you. I actually think that you could be a real leader if you just tried !

  2. No Mark, you are not dumb, just naive . This urban development-trained Mayor has taken a once delightful city and turned it into a traffic snarled mess. Brilliant statements such as :”without constructing another building…..” and then pursing MB and the new city center IS dumb. Hopefully the citizens will make him a one term mistake and elect someone who respects the citizens of Sandy Springs. Thanks for the letter , Mark. I do know that the residents in our sub-division are tired of his charades.

  3. SS continues to put the cart before the horse and now worries about traffic! All zoning should include traffic considerations and solutions BEFORE approval. . Wow what a novel idea! I don’t think our city leadership truly understands their mission and responsibility to their citizens in this context.

  4. I cannot believe this article. What a sorry mayor we have, who doesn’t understand the pretty basic connection between high-density building in a small area and roads that cannot handle the increased traffic. What a farce this all is, all the lies the mayor and his cronies told us about “mass transit, bicycle paths, and better sidewalks for walking” making all of the density more viable. We all knew better. It was and is all about greed. We’re apparently a lot smarter than our illustrious mayor! Now Sandy Springs is becoming a mini urban city, something most of us certainly never anticipated or wanted in our community. Shame on the mayor and his cronies. It’s too late to undo the damage to Sandy Springs, but I hope a new administration will eventually put a halt to the insanity before it’s too late.

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