Officials and residents converged Tuesday for a public information and detour open house hosted by the Georgia Department of Transportation at Sandy Springs City Hall.
The project calls for converting the two existing signalized intersections at each ramp terminal at Riverside Drive with single-lane roundabouts.
“This primarily is a safety issue,” said GDOT spokesman David Spear. “We have, on average, about 15 accidents at this interchange at one end or the other of it every year.
“Our studies and [other] studies and experiences around the country have demonstrated pretty clearly that roundabouts are a much safer movement. They can accommodate more traffic more quickly and more safely.”
The overhaul comes with an estimated price tag of somewhere between $2.5 million and $3 million.
A few dozen residents were on hand Tuesday to peruse visual renderings and displays of the project and the proposed detour route.
Longtime Sandy Springs resident Gary Draper called the plan a welcome change.
“It’s terrific,” he said. “It gets rid of the traffic lights and allows traffic to flow much more freely.
“Once you learn how to [navigate] it, you’ll like it. … It’s much better than traffic lights.”
None of the residents interviewed by the Neighbor spoke out against the project, but two said they were concerned about Braves fans cutting through their neighborhoods when the team moves to southeast Cobb County in 2017.
The eastbound and westbound I-285 off-ramps currently each consists of a single, 16-foot lane — with traffic signals at the on- and off-termini.
According to the plan, each approach to the roundabout would be widened to two lanes with one lane entering the roundabout and the other serving as the right turn lane. The outside shoulders are expected to remain 10 feet.
Spear said motorists may not initially warm to the presence of roundabouts, given the dearth of them statewide.
“People are apprehensive when they first pull up to one,” he said. “They’re not quite sure what they’re supposed to do, but once they get used to it they’re going to find it’s a much easier movement. It’s much safer. … You don’t have [those] stop-and-go-and-then-turn movements.
“I think they’ll find it to be a much more acceptable interim solution and then ultimately … this will let the folks around [the] north side move a little safer and hopefully a little quicker as well.”
The design-build project — whereas one company handles both phases — is currently scheduled to let bids in October, with construction anticipated to begin in spring 2015. The revised configurations are tentatively set to open in spring 2016.
“There will always be few people who [express] opposition, but there shouldn’t be. … The only problem with this project is during construction it’s going to be a real disruption,” said Draper. “That’s when people are going to be unhappy — if they can build it pretty quick, it’ll make people a lot happier.”
Spear called the Riverside makeover part of a series of alterations planned for I-285 as part of the state transportation authority’s long-term vision.
“We’ve got a project called Revive 285, which will ultimately rebuild the entire top end of 285 and add a lot of different features in and probably replace all of these interchanges,” he said. “That’s obviously a huge, monumental undertaking that’s very expensive and, frankly, years away.
“So, in the interim we’re trying to do things to make the interchanges safer and to where we can improve the traffic flow.”
Until April 4, residents can submit written comments to Hiral Patel at GDOT's office or via the web at www.dot.ga.gov.