The Dunwoody City Council discussed the safety and connectivity of two planned sidewalk projects during a July 12 meeting. 

In early June, the city asked for public input on the design options for the sidewalk projects, one at Dunwoody Road and one at Vermack Road. At its July 12 meeting, the City Council reviewed a presentation of the proposals and the public input process.

The Dunwoody Road project will extend the sidewalk from Chamblee Dunwoody Road to the Sandy Springs city limit and fill a gap at Oak Pointe Place and Chamblee Dunwoody Road. One design option would put a 6-foot wide sidewalk on the north side of Dunwoody Road. Another option would put the sidewalk along the south side of the street.

According to survey results presented by Public Works Director Michael Smith, 52% of 200 voters supported the first design option. Forty-six percent supported the second option, and 2% supported neither option. The first alternative would cost $415,000, while the second would cost $495,000.

Despite the results of the survey, in general council members thought it would be safer for pedestrians and drivers to put the sidewalk on the south side of the street. 

“I use that street a lot, both on foot and in car, and it will be much safer to have the sidewalks on the south,” said Councilmember Pam Tallmadge. “Driving, too – you can see the pedestrians better on the sidewalk on that side.”

Councilmember John Heneghan said he was concerned about choosing the alternative that the majority of residents did not vote for. But Smith said while more people voted for the first option, most of the comments were supportive of the sidewalk in general. 

“Reading through the comments, I didn’t get a sense there was a strong preference for one versus the other,” he said. “We got a lot of comments about [how] this sidewalk is really needed, regardless of which side of the road it goes on.” 

For the Vermack Road project, which would fill a gap on the west side of Vermack Road from Womack Road south to the existing sidewalk next to Vermack Swim and Tennis Club at 4756 Vermack Road, the first option would add a 6-foot wide sidewalk and a 4-foot grass buffer along the western side of the street. The second option would widen the road to accommodate a bicycle lane on both sides of the street, add a 4-foot grass buffer to the shoulder, and build a 5-foot wide sidewalk on both sides of the road. 

According to survey results, 59% of 121 voters supported the second design option. Forty percent supported the first design option, and 1% did not support either option. 

Most of the council members also supported option two, despite the fact that it costs more. Option two would cost an estimated $1.2 million, while option one would cost an estimated $500,000.

“I get it – just [it’s] twice as much. More than twice as much,” said Councilmember Stacey Harris. “The public needs to understand that it’s twice as much, but we’re doing it for the connectivity that we need in the city.” 

Mayor Lynn Deutsch asked if city staff could look at traffic calming measures for Vermack Road in conjunction with the sidewalk project. 

“It seems silly to disturb all the neighbors once and then a year later, come in and say … we have this great idea to calm traffic and disturb them again,” she said. “We ought to just get the pain and suffering over with.” 

The council is expected to vote on both sidewalk projects at its July 26 meeting. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.