Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Northridge / GA-400 Bridge Project Update

Hi Friends,

As of today, still no change to the project. Still no bike lanes. I've been talking to anyone I can: State & Local elected officials, press, etc. But here's the latest information for your perusal.

Total Project Budget: $10.5M
Cost Estimate for Bike Lanes on Bridge: $168k (less than 2% of the project)
Cost Estimate for Bike Lanes on Roberts Drive: $13k to $37k (+ utility relocations)
Actual Cost for Sidewalks - $41,933
Actual Cost for “Enhancements” - $500k (details below)

Funding Sources & Amounts
  • Amount contributed from the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) - $8,768,235.96
  • Amount contributed from Sandy Springs - $500,000
  • Other contributed funds (amounts & sources) - $0,100% State and Local funds

Memorandum of Understanding signed by Sandy Springs & GDOT in October, 2012, total project budget is $10.5M. The GDOT-provided numbers total $9.2M, indicating that there appears to be room in the budget to add bike lanes on both the bridge and Roberts Drive within the project area.

“ … SRTA and GDOT will be funding the project for the cost of design, right-of-way, utility, and construction activities up to $10,042,836, and the City will match for enhancement items listed [above] in the amount of $500,000.”

The $500k contribution from Sandy Springs represents enhancement items of:

“Decorative mast arm traffic signal poles, LED street lights, illuminated overhead street name signs, Ethernet high-definition video cameras, wireless magnetometer vehicle sensors, green vinyl chain link fence, and granite cast in place form finishes to walls.”

Project & Budget History
2010: $1.2M -- North Fulton CTP, Project VH208: Provide capacity and operational improvements.
2011: $7M - Sandy Springs T-0037: Northridge Interchange at GA 400 Improvements
2012: $10.5M – GDOT Project #751580: Design/Build. Detailed Concept Report
Public Meetings: Single one held on December 4, 2011.


I found the following on page 83 of the Concept Report, dated March 12, 2012 by Lisa Myers, Acting Project Review Engineer: IMPLEMENTATION OF VALUE ENGINEERING STUDY ALTERNATIVES

ALT-1 Says

 "The new bridge will include minimum width bike lanes in both directions."


Where's the Money??

SRTA took in $20M from the GA-400 Tolls in FY 2012.
Sandy Springs FY2012 Revenue was $95M, with a balance of $70M.

Why Build Bike Lanes on the Bridge? Was in the original plan from 2010.
Can’t Afford Not to: Bicycle Accommodations add value to local businesses & homes. Improve Health, Increase local transportation options. All add up to an excellent long-term Return on Investment.
Safe Routes to School: Two Elementary Schools within ¼ mile of the project. Allow parents & children a SAFE transportation option, relieving local motor vehicle rush-hour traffic.
Plan for the Future: Bridges last 50+ years. Gen X/Y are looking for walkable, bikable communities & will relocate their businesses & create new jobs where this infrastructure exists. This trend will increase.
Regional Connectivity:  This bridge is the single point of access between Perimeter CID, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs to cross the Chattahoochee River into Roswell, connecting into their trail & bike network and points beyond.
Supports Existing Plans: Sandy Springs 2008 Transportation Plan identifies Roberts Drive/Northridge as a north-south Bicycle Corridor. Roswell & Sandy Springs have budgeted and are building a Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge acrossthe Chattahoochee at Hwy-9/Roswell Rd (completion: 2016). Dunwoody has built Bike Lanes northward along Roberts Drive to the Sandy Springs border.
Supports Policies & Programs:
GDOT Policy: Required exception to adding Bike Lanes if increased project cost by 20% or more. GDOT Board unanimously adopted a Complete Streets policy in 2012. Bike Lanes are to be built by “default” in projects. Exception remains if 20% or greater extra cost.
Sandy Springs: Pursuing certification as a “Bicycle Friendly Community”; has adopted a “Complete Streets” policy (per Public Works Dir, Kevin Walter– AJC, June 15, 2012); guidance to developers to install bike lanes (S.Sprs. Ord. Art XI, 103-74(k))
 ARC 2007 Bike/Ped Plan:  “Routine Accommodation” Bicyclists and pedestrians provided for when new roadways are constructed and for new and retrofitting existing roadways.

GDOT: Ms. Marlo L. Clowers, P.E. / Project Manager / 404.631.1713/ mclowers@dot.ga.gov
Websites: Cities of Sandy Springs & Dunwoody, Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Journal Constitution


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

$7M for Bridge & Intersection Improvements, Bike Lanes Too Costly

Hi Friends, it looks like another major bridge of regional impact across an expressway in Metro Atlanta managed by GDOT is probably going to be widened without adding accommodations for bicyclists. Uggh.. It's the Northridge Rd & GA-400 bridge & interchange in Sandy Springs. 

Why is this a significant project of regional impact and connectivity? Because it is the single planned north-south bicycle crossing of GA-400 between Perimeter CID / Dunwoody / Sandy Springs and Roswell.  See the Sandy Springs 2008 Transportation Plan for details.

Dunwoody, with it's Complete Streets Policy has built 5-ft wide bicycle lanes on Roberts Drive up to the Sandy Springs border. In the Sandy Springs plan, you’ll see that the main north-south bicycle network crosses GA-400 at Northridge. Heading northward to the Chattahoochee at Hwy-9, a new Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge is scheduled to built, connecting southward on Roberts Drive.

Future Bike/Ped Bridge across the Chattahoochee

In the original 2010 project documents, bike lanes were included. After the 2011 iteration, the lanes were taken out. Why?  I was told it was MONEY. It costs too much. They backward engineered the project based on a set dollar amount. Most of the funds for this project came from the GA-400 Toll. 

Another FOUR Feet in the TOTAL bridge width would give us two 4-ft wide bike lanes in each direction (I'll explain below).

Yesterday I reached out to the GDOT Project Manager and had a very nice phone conversation. She's going to provide me the cost breakdowns and funding sources PLUS what the (estimated) additional cost would be to put in bike lanes. 

In the original plan with 4-ft wide bike lanes, the entire bridge width was specified in the State Road & Tollway Authority Project Summary Report, December 2010 as:
“The bridge will be widened approximately 53 feet, 7½ inches to the north of the existing alignment to accommodate the additional travel lanes. The southern side of the bridge will be reconfigured to add the 6-foot sidewalk and 4-foot bike lane. The total proposed bridge width is 110 feet, 10 inches.”

Per discussion, GDOT is going to provide 13-ft outside travel lanes and 11-ft inside lanes. They said that the extra 2-ft on each outside lane will be for the bicyclists (but it won't be striped for a 2-ft paved shoulder). That's a total of FOUR extra feet width on the entire bridge width. All that's needed is ANOTHER FOUR FEET and we could get AASHTO-Compliant Bike Lanes (six feet would be even better, providing for 5-ft lanes). And would follow GDOT's very own newly-adopted Complete Streets Design Policy. Where by DEFAULT Bike Lanes are to be built. Not having bike lanes requires a formal Design Variance and states:
"Required accommodations (i.e., where a Standard Warrant is met) may only be omitted, after approval of a Design Variance, where the cost of providing the required accommodations is excessively disproportionate to the need or probable use. Excessively disproportionate may be defined as exceeding 20% of the total project cost. This cost should consider construction, required right-of-way, environmental impacts, and in some cases operation and maintenance. Where accommodations provide safety benefits to address bicycle and/or pedestrian crash history, these benefits must be considered."
I've posed the following questions of GDOT:
  • Total Project Cost
  • Costs for Sidewalks
  • Costs for Landscaping
  • Costs for Streetscapes
  • Funding Sources & Amounts
  • Amount contributed from SRTA
  • Amount contributed from Sandy Springs
  • Other contributed funds (amounts & sources)
  • Additional cost to widen bridge to have 4’ft bike lanes in each direction
  • Additional cost to have 4-ft bike lanes in each direction on Roberts Drive (within the project area)*
  • Additional cost to have additional 2-ft outside lane width on Roberts Drive (instead of full bike lanes)*
            * Will Roberts Drive have a 11-ft travel lanes? (instead of 12-ft)

Could this project be qualified to receive ARC funding? (Note: I have to believe that ARC would definitely take this on as it is a project of REGIONAL SIGNIFICANCE. Going to the ARC, they can get their hands on lots of other funding sources.)
Following the 2010 design, I'm expecting to see the REVISED bridge width to be a total of 106 feet instead of 110.

Then, all I have to do is find a source for the additional funds. Simple, eh?

IMHO, if you can't do it right the first time, wait. Save up the money then do it right. (But I was told that the cost of construction goes up the longer you wait...)

B-U-T, the project has already been awarded so this all just might be too little, too late. I missed the single public meeting held in 2011 and didn't really have this on my radar, even though I ride my bike at this intersection every time I head from my house in Dunwoody over to Roswell.

What can you do? Honestly, I'm not too sure. Do you have any political connections? Live in Sandy Springs, Roswell, Dunwoody or North Fulton County? You could consider contacting your local DOT, State DOT and elected officials and ask them to add back the extra 4-ft bridge width & install bike lanes. 

Stay Tuned.

In the meantime, I submit to for your reading a Letter to the Editor in the Sandy Springs Reporter I authored nearly two years ago about ANOTHER nearby bridge widening across an interstate that also didn't get bike lanes. The Roswell Rd bridge over I-285.  The reasons I were told were: a) too much $$ and b) "didn't make sense" -- because Roswell Rd just simply could never be re-engineered or designed to retrofit for bicycle facilities. 

Credit - Sandy Springs Patch, Adrianne Murchison
Sorry, no bike lanes here, either. 

Never on Roswell Road? Never say never. 20 years ago you'd say there'd never be bike lanes on Peachtree in Buckhead, either. And now there is. Story here:


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Membership in the City of Dunwoody's Boards

I have some thoughts on how the City of Dunwoody can enhance the process for membership on it's citizen boards.

a.     Open & Transparent Membership Applications, which would be subject to Georgia Open Records Act.

Today, there is no formal or documented process for a citizen to request to be a member of any city board.

Put application forms on the city’s website & allow general public to apply to these various Committees & Commissions. Applications are sent to the City Clerk.

Example: City of Marietta does this http://www.mariettaga.gov/city/cityhall/committees/bza (See application listed at the bottom of their web page). -- similar to other boards, too --  By the way, interestingly enough their ZBA & Planning Commission members receive compensation of $100 - $150 per month!!

b.     Residency / Work Requirement:

We presently don’t require members to be a resident of Dunwoody. That might be okay for some committees (Sustainability – uses PCID reps, etc.). However for residency, perhaps there needs to be something tied into how long they have lived here. Perhaps at least a couple of years. For example, someone was appointed to one of our boards after just moving here from out of state. This person hadn't had any time to orient themselves to our issues, history or even display an understanding of our Master Plans. What were this person's qualifications prior to being presented as an appointee to this board that made his stand out from other applicants? 

c.       The Application Itself. Marietta’s contains items such as the following:

·         Reasons why you want to serve
·         Experience, Background & Qualifications
·         References

d.      Including the application & related data (Resume, confirmed references, bio, etc.) in the Council Agenda Packet for all to review.

e.      Change Ordinance to allow any council member to recommend appointments

f.      Clearly Specifying Qualifications (as needed) and Duties/Role/Scope for Commissions

The Design Review Advisory Board for the Dunwoody Village states the qualifications for members (attached members, all expiring in 2013) to be the following:

The committee shall have seven volunteers that have qualifications and design experience, and have a budget sufficient to retain expert advice from the professional community when needed. The recommended content would be four individuals with qualified experience in architectural design and three members who have knowledge of historical submissions.

i.    Do they all have these qualifications?
ii.   What is a “Historical Submission”?
iii.  Are there additional qualifications that would be beneficial?
iv.   What is the scope / role / mission / duties of this Board? It’s not actually spelled out in our code

Just some thoughts to ponder. If you'd like to see some of these changes, send an email to the Mayor & Council at: CouncilMembers@dunwoodyga.gov


Monday, January 7, 2013

More in-depth: South Peachtree Creek Trail & Roswell Big Creek Greenway

I just wanted to share a couple other examples of multi-use trails that have been built in the last few years in Metro Atlanta that dealt with storm water, water, stream buffers and the like. Take a look for yourself:

       South Peachtree Creek 

There was public outcry & a lawsuit in DeKalb just a few years ago on the "South Peachtree Creek” trail. It was built WITHIN the floodplain / stream buffer, required Dekalb County buying land and the like. There were Temporary Restraining Orders, etc. but the project ended up being built and the folks love it. See the link here for the history. And see this link from the PATH Foundation that has the trail information as it is used today:

For more info, just Google “South Peachtree Creek Trail”. 

       Roswell Big Creek Greenway

Built as a special EPA project in a floodplain to actually MITIGATE storm water drainage issues. Officially titled, “Big Creek Park Wetlands Enhancement Demonstration Project”.

The City-owned Big Creek Park is located along Big Creek, approximately two miles north of  where Big Creek joins the Chattahoochee River (east of State Route 400).  The master plan for
the park includes approximately 30 acres of property that has been selected for a Wetlands Enhancement Demonstration Project.  It is  intended to demonstrate improvements on the
overall quality of an urban watershed and wetlands system through the use of innovative approaches to manage both the quality and quantity of urban stormwater runoff.  Project  objectives include the following:
• Demonstrate urban stormwater “best management practices” for improving water quality.
• Demonstrate groundwater recharge through the wetlands to improve low-flow conditions in Big Creek during drought periods.
• Demonstrate wetlands enhancement such as improved wetland hydrology and habitat diversity.
• Construct a network of trails for public use with the ability to provide public education pertaining to water quality, wetlands, and stormwater management.  The greenway trail will connect with Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway.  
Construction began in Fall 2004.  Monitoring will take place for four years after construction and results will be reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Engineering firm (Geosyntec) details:

The objectives of the project were to demonstrate innovative water quality and wetlands enhancement techniques through the use of stormwater best management practices and groundwater recharge – all within a public park setting which includes a network of trails for public use and outdoor classrooms.

The awards received by this project included:

State Engineering Excellence Award – American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), 2006
Outstanding Civil Engineering Project Award - Natural Environment Category, Georgia Outstanding Civil Engineering Awards, ASCE Georgia Section, September 2006
GAWRA Water Resources Project of the Year; by American Water Resources Association - Georgia Section, May 2006
Georgia Trendsetter Award 2006 by Georgia Municipal Association.