DUNWOODY, Ga. — In the shadow of the Dunwoody MARTA station, members of the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce gathered Sept. 12 to hear potential solutions to the district’s most prominent challenge: transportation.
A panel of business and transportation officials discussed road projects and alternative approaches to help reduce travel times to guests at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.
The panelist were Ann Hanlon, executive director of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts; Johann Weber, senior program manager of Perimeter Connects; Ros Tucker, a managing director at the Atlanta Regional Commission; and Marlo Clowers, senior project manager at the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Clowers manages the Transform 285/400 project, which is now under construction to add new flyover ramps, new collector-distributor lanes and other upgrades to the interchange.
This project is distinct from plans to bring toll lanes to I-285 and Ga. 400, a project that is still years away.
The 285-400 interchange sees more than 400,000 cars each day, Clowers said. The transform project covers 4 miles of I-285 and 6 miles of Ga. 400, making it similar in scope to Spaghetti Junction in north DeKalb.
The project, expected to be complete in late 2020, will create a diverging diamond interchange at Abernathy Road and reconstruct several bridges. Collector distributor lanes will be added along both freeways.
“They are free lanes,” Clowers said. “The purpose of those lanes is to allow traffic that is entering and exiting the freeway to do all that entering and exiting behind a barrier. The benefit of that is that you decrease the potential for crashes, which also improves congestion because you don’t have as much of a potential for incident-based delays.
Far from only talking about major road projects, the panelist emphasized other efforts to reduce traffic congestion, like encouraging commuters to walk, bike, car pool or take public transit.
“We talk a lot about heavy construction and building new stuff, but we also spend an equal amount of time talking about … how to get people out of their cars,” Hanlon said. “We recognize we can’t build our way out of congestion. We can’t build enough lanes.”
Weber spoke about Perimeter Connects’ work with companies to encourage tele-commuting, where employees work from home one day a week or more, and alternative shift schedules, to reduce the amount of traffic at peak hours.
This year Perimeter Connects estimates its partners have eliminated an average of 6,400 single-occupancy vehicle trips each day, Weber said.
“That may not sound like a lot, but if you take those cars and put them bumper to bumper, that’s about 20 miles of highway they would have taken up,” he said. “That certainly sounds impactful, but we always want to move that needle further.”
Another benefit of these programs is that they can be implemented relatively quickly and inexpensively. He warned against putting too much stock in exciting new technologies like autonomous vehicles, that are probably decades away from being implemented in a large-scale way.
Attendees had the opportunity to ask their own questions, and electric cars, high occupancy vehicle lanes and bridge beautification projects were among the subjects discussed.