I have been a resident of Sandy Springs, GA for nearly 30 years and it excites me that new Express Lanes are going to help commuters reduce their hours on the road. However, there are many stakeholders that have waited until the last minute to get involved in the process. I started attending meetings, reading information published by the GA DOT years ago so that I could understand how this massive road project would effect me, my family, and my property.
As a deadline looms to cement plans for a Ga. 400 expansion through north Fulton County, leaders in three cities are still working to negotiate their wish lists with state road planners.
And a letter sent Aug. 26 revealed new concerns of the Fulton County school district and a gulf between what the state wants and the schools’ willingness to agree to it.
The Fulton County Schools’ superintendent said the plan to build Ga. 400 express lanes close to two schools puts students at risk. He said he would need as much as $10 million more from taxpayers to keep children safe.
The plan to build elevated lanes near schools potentially leaves the district with “very expensive steps that would need to take place in order to ensure a safe school environment,” Superintendent Mike Looney wrote in an Aug. 26 letter to Georgia Department of Transportation officials.
Looney’s letter questioning the proposed design of the $1.6 billion project comes as elected leaders in Alpharetta, Sandy Springs and Roswell are voicing their own concerns to the road experts at GDOT. All hope state leaders will approve their requests for last-minute adjustments to the road plan.
All the negotiations need to finish soon so GDOT can finalize the design by the end of the month. That’s the rough deadline so GDOT can send a plan to the Federal Highway Administration for environmental approval and stay on schedule. Then, the state will put the project out for bid.
But none have gone so far as Looney, who wrote, “students, their families and the neighboring community will end up being a ‘loser’ any way this progresses.” The three cities offered suggestions for their preferred routes and outcomes, but Looney did not offer any solutions beyond one that GDOT had already rejected as not feasible.
The Ga. 400 expansion is the most transformative road project for north Fulton County in decades. The state plans to add 16 miles of tolled express lanes on Ga. 400 between the North Springs MARTA station and McFarland Parkway. It also represents MARTA’s first step in a larger expansion north, adding four bus rapid transit stations along the road.
“There’s going to be pain and agony and anger,” he said. “People’s lives are going to be disrupted.”