SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. (CW69 News in Atlanta) — A multimillion dollar road widening project in Sandy Springs is raising concern for some neighbors who say the city has ignored their input and the money could be put to better use.
Virginia Twynham grew up in Sandy Springs, and for the last 10 years, she has lived in a home on Brookgreen Road with her husband and two kids. She says the city’s plans to widen Hammond Drive between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive will impact her property. “The current design is they’re lifting and shifting traffic from another street over to our street,” she said.READ MORE: Elon Musk Explores The Limits Of Tesla's 'Self-Driving' Technology
It’s a roughly $60 million project. The city plans to add a lane in each direction, roundabouts and sidewalks to address traffic and safety concerns.
Dozens of families along Hammond Drive have sold their homes, and we’re told the less than a dozen remaining could be forced to move.
“That’s really unfortunate, and I think if we had a different design, I don’t think we’d have to go as far as taking so many houses,” said Twynham.
Doug Falciglia has lived in the neighborhood since 1987. “I have not seen where the amount of money they want to spend, I understand it’s another $38 million, that we’re gonna get more than $38 million worth of benefit,” he said.
Despite public meetings and traffic studies, many residents say the city has ignored their input. “I haven’t seen anything that has swayed me to believe that this is going to be an improvement.”
“There really could just be a better design, overall, that keeps our neighborhood not as a cut through neighborhood,” said Twynham. “I would love to have another conversation with the neighborhood before it’s put in process,” she added.
Attorney Christian Torgrimson represents several of the homeowners on Hammond Drive and issued this statement to CW69:
I represent a number of clients involved in this project. We are working with the City to negotiate and recover just and adequate compensation.READ MORE: Baby Formula Arrives In Indianapolis From Germany On US Military Aircraft
The city was unable to immediately respond to our request for comment. However, a spokesperson later responded to several questions we submitted.
In regard to why the city plans to widen Hammond Drive, he issued the following statement:
The City of Sandy Springs has long realized the need to improve mobility and safety along this section of Hammond Drive. In fact, as far back as 1999, Fulton County identified improvements on Hammond Drive as needed to enhance safety and mobility. Over the past several years, the City has held more than five public meetings and multiple neighborhood discussions to solicit resident input into the need and design for the project. Based on traffic data collected in 2019, Hammond Drive between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive carries approximately 17,500 vehicles daily – a higher volume of traffic than the capacity of a two-lane roadway. Currently, Hammond Drive experiences severe congestion and queuing of traffic, especially during peak commuting hours. The failure to accommodate current and growing future traffic demand along Hammond Drive has led to an increase in neighborhood cut-through traffic and is adversely impacting adjacent roadways. Also, this portion of Hammond Drive lacks sidewalks, does not accommodate MARTA buses very well, and presents challenges in terms of sight distance and visibility for motorists. There is currently no marked crosswalk between the ends of the corridor study area. This conceptual design project will identify and propose a new configuration for Hammond Drive that improves capacity and access for all modes of travel, including automobile, bus, bicycle, and walking. Additional benefits of the project include: • Reduce potential pedestrian and vehicular conflicts • Improve neighborhood connectivity • Improve access for people walking and bicycling • Improve the operations of buses • Reduce cut-through traffic on neighborhood streets • Reduce congestion along Hammond Drive at peak hours
Full project details can be found here: https://www.sandyspringsga.gov/hammond-drive-improvements
Regarding our request to clarify where the improvements will be made, we received this response:
The list of projects in TSPLOST 2016 and 2021, as approved by the voters in November 2016 and 2021, has this current phase running from Boylston to Glenridge. Additional phases will be based on future funding.
In reference to the specific work that will be completed, the city indicated:
The project will add a multi-use path along both sides of Hammond Drive, with dedicated pedestrian crossings at four locations between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive, improving pedestrian and bicycle movement and safety in the area. The proposed concept includes areas for green space between the roadway and multi-use paths as well as along the south side of the new roadway. The Hammond Drive improvements will help better connect both sides of the Glenridge Hammond neighborhood by providing direct bicycle and pedestrian access from one side of Hammond Drive to the other via an underpass at Kayron Drive. Limited access cul-de-sacs will reduce the potential for cut-through traffic and calm neighborhood traffic in general.
The spokesperson indicated the city has indicated 32 homeowners have voluntarily sold their homes, and their are nine remaining parcels to acquire. When asked if the city plans to use eminent domain to urge the nine remaining homeowners to sell their properties, we were told the following:
Final design has not yet been completed, and the project is likely a year away from right-of-way plans. The City will know more about additional properties needed when design has been completed. It is too premature to discuss eminent domain, as it is always viewed as a last resort. It is always the City’s preference to reach mutually agreeable purchases as occurred with the other 32 owners.
We asked if there was a deadline for residents living on the impacted stretch of Hammond Drove to move. The city indicated:
No, as referenced above, the project is still in the design stages. It is unlikely that construction would begin in the next two to three years.
The city also clarified how it’s funding the project:
The project is being funded through Fulton County Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) collections. TSPLOST 2016 passed in November 2016 and TSPLOST 2021 passed in November 2021. As presented and discussed during the City’s February 2020 Public Information Open House, the project was estimated to cost between $59.6 million and $64.6 million. These projects were approved and funded by the voters, so the City has little flexibility in the execution of the project.
In reference to concerns the project will turn the area into a cut-through neighborhood, the city responded as follows:
Based on traffic data collected, the Hammond Drive corridor between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive carries approximately 17,500 vehicles daily. At this level of traffic volume, which is higher than the capacity of a two-lane roadway, Hammond Drive experiences severe congestion and queuing of traffic, especially during peak commuting hours. Additionally, historical traffic volumes obtained by the Georgia Department of Transportation indicate that the traffic along Hammond Drive has plateaued at this level for the recent years – again confirming that the traffic along Hammond Drive is at capacity and unable to serve the existing demand. The failure to accommodate the growing traffic demand in the area and along Hammond Drive has led to an increase in neighborhood cut-through traffic and is adversely impacting adjacent roadways and neighborhoods.
In response to residents indicating the city is not justified in spending an additional $38 million on the project, it replied:
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Hammond Drive today carries more traffic than its capacity and, therefore, regularly experiences severe congestion and queuing of traffic. It lacks adequate facilities for people biking and walking. There are no crosswalks between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive, effectively dividing the neighborhood and requiring people to travel out of their way to cross the road. There are few facilities to support people riding transit, and the current configuration of the road does not accommodate buses very well. Hammond Drive also presents challenges in terms of sight distance and visibility for motorists, due to topography. This is the narrowest section of Hammond Drive (beyond Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive, Hammond Drive is already four lanes). As a result, this portion of the corridor is often congested at peak hours.
Regarding concerns the city has not provided feedback to the input residents have provided, it issued this response:
Since the project is still in the design phases, there is no additional information to share at this time. As the design progresses, and additional decisions and input are needed from the neighborhoods, subsequent community input meetings will be scheduled.