ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The Georgia Department of Transportation has revised plans to widen Ga. 9 through downtown Alpharetta, and the changes could save close to a dozen businesses.
Tim Evans, Georgia DOT project manager, said the changes came after a groundswell of complaints last fall spurred the agency to take a second look at the $70 million project.
Many property owners and businesses were worried the widening would encroach so far into their property, they would have to relocate.
Plans call for converting the thoroughfare to four lanes with a 12-foot landscaped median from Upper Hembree Road to Windward Parkway in Alpharetta. The design also calls for an 8-foot asphalt shoulder on each side for parking.
Following initial outcry from some property owners last fall, the DOT met with engineering firm Pond & Co. to review the original plans earlier this year.
“We got a lot of pushback from a lot of the property owners there, so we sat down with Pond to see whether they could come up with a redesign that could save some of the buildings from relocation,” Evans said.
The powwow produced a new plan that narrows that portion of the project running through the downtown area.
They removed the 8-foot asphalt shoulder and reduced the width of the sidewalks and landscaping. Sidewalks – or multi-use paths – that had been drawn at a 12-foot width will now range from 5 feet to 7 feet wide.
The narrowed corridor can now accommodate the 12 or so properties that were listed for displacement. Evans said.
“For me, this was the first time it happened,” Evans said,
He added that the department was hearing from a lot of property owners upset with the loss of property.
One property owner asked whether GDOT was going to condemn his property.
“I said, ‘Sir, we’re not even talking about condemnation. Tell us your concerns, come in and talk about it.’ “Condemnation was the last thing on the table,” said Evans.
Acquiring right of way is a lot more difficult when property owners are disgruntled from the outset, he said.
Actual renderings of the revised plan probably won’t be released until the project is put out for construction bids, said Kevin Skinner, principal and branch manager with Pond.
The GDOT has set April 2019 as the date to let the project.
Meanwhile, it must acquire all the rights of way and secure utility and environmental certifications.
The department has budgeted $38.8 million for right-of-way acquisition on the 200 or so parcels lining Ga. 9 for the length of the project. The cost for construction is budgeted at $32 million.
State transportation officials predict traffic along the route through the heart of Alpharetta will increase close to 25 percent up to 44,230 vehicles daily by 2040.
Evans said the City of Alpharetta was called in to help coordinate the talks between landowners, GDOT and project engineers.
“A lot of the praise goes to the Georgia Department of Transportation,” said Alpharetta Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz. “They were willing to look at re-examining this corridor and still make it work for traffic flow and pedestrian mobility as well as preserve the structures. I worked with trying to bring everybody together.”
Some businesses, like Duffy Realty at the corner of Ga. 9 and Cumming Street, was slated to have a sidewalk lopping off its front door – in effect, making the building useless.
Many business owners say they will await official word from the DOT.
Larry Attig, who owns property at 52 N. Main, said he and other downtown business owners are hearing rumors about the revisions, but they haven’t seen anything official.
“We’re kind of still in the dark about it,” he said.