North Fulton transportation projects aim to ease commutes, give alternatives
Throughout North Fulton, new roads, improvements to existing infrastructure and innovative transit options are making commutes easier and faster, according to local officials.
One of the biggest transportation initiatives is the Georgia Department of Transportation’s $1.8 billion Express Lanes project for Ga. 400. It plans to add new express lanes extending from the North Springs MARTA Station to McFarland Parkway. The project is part of Georgia DOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program, which includes an initial 11 large-scale projects.
The rapid growth of both jobs and population in the area means an already busy artery must accommodate even more people.
“When you go and look at the demographics and the growth in the region that surrounds Georgia 400, it’s upward and you know they’re expecting millions more people to move (there) in the next 10 to 15 years and they can’t all get on Georgia 400,” said MARTA Board Chair Freda Hardage. “Here is an opportunity, which we rarely get anywhere in Georgia, to work alongside GDOT to save some money as we plan together.”
The new lanes will offer the opportunity to also add bus rapid transit (BRT) lanes and accompanying stations along the route. With fewer stops than regular buses, BRT offers faster and more reliable trips along the route.
Additionally, Fulton County is planning for a series of arterial routes including along Piedmont and Roswell roads. These buses would have the technology to change traffic lights, but would not have dedicated lanes.
“The other thing that’s huge about that is, if wecould get people to ride buses and they knew they weren’t going to have to stop at a stop light and they’d have a more expedited experience, they may consider taking transit,” said Brandon Beach, executive director of the North Fulton Community Improvement District (CID).
Companies such as Mercedes-Benz USA, United Parcel Service Inc., ADP and LexisNexis have presence in the area and their employees often use 400 to get to work.
“From an economic development standpoint, we have to invest in Georgia 400,” Beach said. “Georgia 400 is a huge economic engine for our state when you look at the 900 technology companies that are housed up the 400 corridor.”
Actual construction on the 400 project is scheduled to begin in 2022 and open to traffic by 2026.
The BRT lanes are being funded in part with $100 million in bonds earmarked for transportation.
North Fulton has also been busy making improvements to and expanding secondary roads throughout the area.
Windward Parkway is getting a new triple-left-turn lane that will extend westbound along the road to Deerfield Parkway and Westside Parkway. The project, slated for completion in the summer of 2020, is a part of an ongoing effort to improve transportation flow for drivers along and entering Windward Parkway from Georgia 400 northbound.
Adding the triple-left-turn lane will alleviate traffic backup from 400 and add more capacity.
“That should help traffic flow,” Beach said. “You’ve got Fiserv and Halyard Healthand so you have a lot of jobs right there at that corner of Windward and Westside Parkway.” The project is slated for completion in the spring of 2020.
The North Fulton CID is also working with Alpharetta on an extension of Davis Drive to Westside Parkway. Davis Drive intersects Mansell Road just west of GA 400 and serves a series of restaurants and entertainment outlets.
“It will be a small win, but it will help connectivity,” Beach said. “Anytime you can have more connectivity and arteries open up, that’s a good thing.” The CID joined with Forsyth County and GDOT to help fund a proposed interchange off Ga. 400 to McGinnis Ferry Road.
Sandy Springs is using technology to make the daily commute easier and faster. The city is using a mix of vehicle and pedestrian detection technologies at intersections with traffic signals to ease traffic flow, particularly during rush hour.
An advanced transit management system (ATMS) is already deployed from the central city area along Abernathy Road to the Atlanta city limits. Small devices at intersections allow for real-time management of traffic flow through adjusting traffic lights, according to city Community Relations Manager Dan Coffer.
“We place them in the roadway and then all our signals are connected throughput the city,” Coffer said. “We can actively in real time adjust traffic especially during the PM and AM congestion hours.”
About 100,000 commuters enter the city each day for work, according to Coffer. “For us, it’s how do we get them safely, but efficiently, into the city as quickly as possible?” he said.
The system is being deployed throughout the city including the job-heavy Central Perimeter. By 2020, the city expects to have more than 100 intersections continuously measuring traffic demand and optimizing signal timings to minimize delays.
Ride-sharing is also getting a boost. Georgia Commute Options partnered with Johns Creek and Alpharetta to promote Waze Carpool, a service of the GPS navigation app owned by Google. New riders are eligible for $2 rides that begin or end in the two cities.
It connects drivers and passengers with similar destinations to share rides on the most optimal routes, according to Joel Wascher, senior marketing program specialist with Georgia Commute Options, a program funded by the Georgia DOT.