ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta officials are veering away from a Georgia DOT plan to place an interchange at Webb Bridge Road that would access the new Ga. 400 express lanes.
At a recent workshop on the subject, City Council members said they were worried an interchange at Webb Bridge would crowd already-packed streets in the area.
GDOT first unveiled plans for the Webb Bridge Road interchange last December. Dubbed “Webb+,” the structure would be designed to allow access only to traffic using the express lanes.
Earlier this year, Alpharetta City Councilman Jason Binder said the direct access point to the express lanes, would likely affect traffic along several city streets, including Cumming and Academy streets, Westside Parkway and Webb Bridge Road — most with residential developments.
The city is recommending that GDOT move the interchange farther south to Encore Parkway near the North Point Mall area.
Encore Parkway was the recipient of a $17 million upgrade in 2016 that included added lanes and a new, wider bridge over Ga. 400. It now provides an improved east-west connection for the burgeoning business and residential developments near downtown Alpharetta to the North Point District.
“Encore Parkway was designed to accommodate a future exit like this,” Alpharetta Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz told council members.
The City Council’s decision to reject the Webb+ interchange was not a surprise.
At a meeting with GDOT officials in June, Binder questioned the agency’s assertion that an interchange at Webb Bridge Road would have little effect on surrounding traffic. Binder asserted that an interchange would have minimal effect on surrounding streets because they already accommodate more traffic than they can handle.
GDOT officials conceded the street’s current overcapacity was a factor in the calculation.
On its own initiative, Alpharetta has already drawn up rough design plans for an interchange at Encore Parkway. The plan calls for removing much of the decorative median to allow for left-turning traffic.
City officials have also targeted North Point for revitalization after a decade of slumping commercial growth, including the closings of several major retailers, like Sears and Toys “R” Us.
It makes all the sense in the world to me to have the flex lane exit down there, where we’re trying to reinvigorate the North Point corridor, and to help facilitate Sanctuary Park’s continued growth and development. If we’re going to revive that area, that’s a great place to have it.
Alpharetta’s decision to reject GDOT’s original proposal is not unprecedented.
Late last year, Roswell officials turned down a proposal that would have added express lane access at the new Big Creek Parkway bridge. The city and GDOT have since agreed on a proposal that would allow southbound access only to the express lanes at a point south of Holcomb Bridge Road.
Right now, GDOT is in the midst of conducting environmental studies for the $1.8 billion plan to add two express lanes in each direction along 12 miles of Ga. 400 from I-285 north to McFarland Parkway in Forsyth County.
Those studies should include detailed analysis of traffic impacts for interchanges, according to Tim Matthews, program manager for GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program. He said the draft environmental document, including refined traffic impact estimates, should be completed by next summer at which time there will be public meetings for city officials and residents to ask questions and offer suggestions.