The Hammond Drive widening project in Sandy Springs moves to the design phase after City Council heard a report on June 16 on comments made about the conceptual plan and staff responses to those concerns.

The idea to widen the road originated long before Sandy Springs became a city. The controversy about the project has lasted just as long, with the Glennridge Hammond Neighborhood Association saying in 2016 that the project is a threat to one of the city’s largest and oldest neighborhoods.

A roundabout on Hammond Drive at Kayron and Hilderbrand drives in a conceptual design under consideration by the city of Sandy Springs.

Opposition continued in February public information hearings and public comment made through March 13, with residents opposed to medians and anticipated relocations caused by right-of-way needs for the project.

The proposed widening project runs for approximately 1.1 miles from Barfield Road and Roswell Road. The plan includes sidewalks and multi-use paths along the length of the project and a pedestrian-only underpass at Kayron Road to increase connectivity.

Its overall cost will be between $60 million and $63 million. Design and right-of-way purchase is projected to take two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half years, before construction could begin. The city still needs to identify a funding source to complete right-of-way purchases and construction, estimated to require another $45 million.

“As you know, we’ve had meetings on Hammond since the 1990s,” Allen Johnston, the city’s TSPLOST manager, said. “It’s already not meeting the needs of the corridor.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation’s I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction project scheduled to finisht his year, and its plan to add toll lanes on Ga. 400 in 2022-2027, will help traffic in the area, he said. Adding lanes to Hammond Drive will reduce cut-through traffic in neighborhoods along the corridor, he said, as a big reason for the cut-through traffic is the back up on Hammond.

“Overall, this is going to reduce the congestion and the queueing for the corridor,” he said.

Councilmember Chris Burnett was worried about the effect the project will have on Heards Ferry Road by just getting more traffic to that road quicker.

Johnston said traffic studies for the project show it shouldn’t have an adverse affect on Heards Ferry.

Johnston said the design phase for the project will take 12 to 18 months and cost approximately $1.7 million. Acquiring additional property for right of way will take another 18 to 24 months.

The $10.5 million the city has spent so far for the widening project has happened because the property owners have approached the city to buy their land, he said.

“At this time, we’ve only purchased property in advance of the project and we don’t know the exact right of way that we need, Johnston said.

Additional funding will be required to purchase all the property required to complete the road widening project, possibly with a second TSPLOST, Johnston said. He said the additional property will cost an estimated $13.4 million to $16.4 million. Another $34 million will be needed for construction.

The city has $3.7 million left in its TSPLOT funds for the project. After paying for the design, approximately $2 million will be available with another $45 million needed to buy the rest of the property and to construct the project.

Some residents opposed the medians during public information open hearings held on the conceptual plan. Johnston said the medians are necessary because making a left turn across the additional lanes of traffic is dangerous and would affect traffic flow. But in the plan motorists can make U-turns at intersections or use roundabouts to get turned around in the direction they want to go.

Hammond Drive has a higher accident rate for roads of its type than the average in the state, he said.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.