A GDOT project manager gave an update on the Transform 285 construction project’s progress. (GDOT)

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul told a Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) representative the city is concerned with driver safety after accidents that shut down I-285 in both directions.

GDOT’s Marlo Clowers, the Transform I-285 alternative delivery program manager, was at the Sandy Springs City Council work session on Nov. 1 to present an update.

The narrowing of I-285 down to three lanes for the reconstruction of two bridges is one of the issues.

“The real concern is the main lane of interstate truck traffic with commuters on 285 coming into that narrow area,” Paul said. “One of the accidents that we had earlier this week involved a big rig.”

Interstate truck traffic hasn’t been allowed on the Downtown Connector because of similar traffic conflicts, he said. It would take an act of the state legislature to divert traffic off I-285 to use the Downtown Connector.

“But is there any way that we can figure out how to at least reduce some of the truck traffic through there so that we don’t have these conflicts that are putting our public safety at risk?” Paul asked Clowers.

She confirmed that GDOT knew legislative action would be necessary to divert trucks inside of I-285.

“There were conversations early on when we were first considering the lane reductions because we knew it was going to be a necessary evil for replacing those bridges,” Clowers said.

GDOT recognizes there have been incidents involving trucks since the lane closures, but it’s not clear if those were due to the lane closures or driver behavior.

Clowers said she would take the traffic diversion request to her bosses to consider whether they would support rerouting the trucks.

Councilmember Andy Bauman said the perception is that traffic accidents have increased. He asked if GDOT data supports that observation. He also asked if a resolution from the city supporting rerouting truck traffic would help.

Clowers said GDOT makes daily observations of traffic data and can share that with the city. GDOT staff already meets monthly with the city’s Public Works staff.

If the data shows a significant increase in crashes due to trucks related to lane reductions and the city issues a resolution in support of rerouting truck traffic, Clowers said she was sure GDOT would use that to support a request for changes.

Paul also asked about the apparent inactivity of work on the Mount Vernon bridge over Ga. 400, which is creating frustration for some city residents.

Clowers said that part of the project was one of the first bits of work started by the contractor. Since the project is design-build and the Mount Vernon bridge wasn’t considered a critical path item, the contractor sequenced the work to focus on more critical items like collector-distributor lanes.

The result is the Mount Vernon piece of the project is taking longer than originally anticipated. Design-build projects have a single company responsible for both parts of a project and the scheduling of the work, which is meant to save time and money overall.

She said upcoming work for the Ga. 400 portion of the project will include the start of construction on Nov. 11 of the raised median for Mount Vernon Highway.

Transform 285 Project Milestones

Some of the work completed on Transform 285 included:

  • Combination of exits from I-285 westbound to Ga. 400 north and southbound and Peachtree Dunwoody Road to a single exit.
  • New exit point from I-285 eastbound to Glenridge Drive & Ga. 400

Upcoming construction activities in Sandy Springs, with anticipated dates, will include:

  • Mount Vernon Highway – moving eastbound traffic to the south side of the new bridge to allow construction of the raised median – Nov. 11.
  • New ramp opening from Ga. 400 southbound to North Springs MARTA Station – Nov. 11
  • Noise barrier construction completion along Ga. 400 and I-285 is scheduled for completion by Q1 2023.
  • Abernathy Road diverging diamond interchange implementation anticipated in Q1 2023.
  • I-285 westbound bridge over Lake Forrest Drive deck replacement from December 2022 to March 2023.

Clowers told City Council project milestones include the major opening of ramps, bridges and connecting lanes throughout this year and into 2023. By the middle of next year, the majority of work on the I-285 mainline and on Ga. 400 should be completed.

When the Abernathy Road interchange portion of the project is completed a diverging diamond traffic pattern will be established under the Ga. 400 overpass.

Bob Pepalis

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