Sandy Springs pushed back against a plan to close Abernathy Road at Ga. 400 for nine days starting on Feb. 25 so contractors can reconstruct the intersection and demolish the old Ga. 400 overpass.

North Perimeter Contractors (NPC) and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) asked too late and had too little traffic data, said members of the Sandy Springs City Council during its Feb. 15 meeting.

The reconstruction of Abernathy Road into a diverging diamond intersection at Ga. 400 is part of the I-285/Ga. 400 Transform project. NPC said it needs time to demolish the old GA. 400 overpass so construction of its replacement can begin and the intersection work can proceed.

The original plan was to perform the work at Ga. 400 and Abernathy on nights and weekends and not during the workday, Sandy Springs Public Works Director Marty Martin told the council. NPC presented this alternative plan for a nine-day closure on Feb. 10. City staff expressed concerns about the tremendous amount of traffic it would create, along with concerns that construction wouldn’t be complete when Abernathy reopened. 

“This work is proposed to begin on the 25th of this month. So with that there’s a fairly urgent need for public awareness and notification on a lot of levels,” Martin said.

NPC Project Manager Nick Buggenhout said the exit and entrance ramps at Abernathy would still be in use. Motorists would have to take detours using roads including Mount Vernon Highway, Peachtree Dunwoody Road and Mercedes Benz Drive/Barfield Road.

Traffic on Ga. 400 will use collector-distributor lanes during the bridge demolition and construction.

Mayor Rusty Paul said Abernathy is the main corridor connecting Cobb County to the Perimeter market and was built for that purpose.

“This is probably going to be the most disruptive thing that we do on this project,” he said. “So do you think we [have] got enough time to make sure that everybody’s educated about the changes when we put signs up and that sort of thing?”

Councilmember Jody Reichel suggested putting the closure off for a week because private schools have spring break at that time and less traffic will be on the roads.

Councilman John Paulson said he was concerned that the Abernathy closure would begin and the Mount Vernon bridge would not be open yet. He prefers the nine-day closure, but only if everything is in place.

“It’s five days of pain and two weekends. I’d rather do that than 35 or 40 days of nightmare,” he said.

Councilmember Melissa Mular questioned the benefits of the closure.

“For my residents that live on the east side of my district, this would be very disruptive for them to have this heavy load of traffic,” she said. “It’s going to disrupt their life, especially those along Barfield and Mount Vernon Highway. So, I would not be in favor of this.”

Buggenhout said they think a lot of people will see the disruption at Abernathy and use a different road.

“I think there’s going to be more people that are going to take off the exit at Hammond,” he said.

Martin wants to ask NPC and GDOT to study traffic numbers and impacts and propose an alternative schedule for the city. In 2019, average daily traffic counts on Abernathy west of Ga. 400 showed 24,000 average daily trips. Immediately to the east of Ga. 400 and the ramps, that number increases to 54,000, he said.

“There’s a significant amount of … traffic with Ga. 400 right at this crucial intersection,” Martin said.

The city wants to see more detailed traffic modeling to better understand what will occur once the detour is put in place, he said.

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Bob Pepalis

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