ROSWELL, Ga. — Commuters will have to wait until Monday for Roswell city leaders to decide the future of Big Creek Parkway and the interchange at Holcomb Bridge Road and Ga. 400.
Big Creek Parkway was proposed nearly 10 years ago as an alternative east-west route across Ga. 400 that would relieve pressure along Holcomb Bridge Road. The city has so far only developed plans for the first phase of the project which does not include a route over Ga. 400.
At a work session Aug. 26, the City Council considered its options for a path across the super highway.
On the table is whether the city should reduce the scope of Big Creek Parkway, and instead partner with GDOT for improvements at the Holcomb Bridge/Ga. 400 interchange.
No decisions have been made yet, and the city has until the Sept. 9 council meeting to give their answer to GDOT.
The City Council originally passed the Big Creek Parkway project, a $58.5 million TSPLOST project, in 2013 to improve connectivity and reduce congestion along Holcomb Bridge Road by creating another route across Ga. 400. The route would play a similar role as Alpharetta’s Encore Parkway by allowing local residents to cross the city without interacting with always-busy Holcomb Bridge/Ga. 400 interchange.
Freeing up funding
However, earlier this year, the city approached GDOT about a potential partnership to redesign and replace the Ga. 400 interchange as part of the state’s Ga. 400 express lane project. The redesign would incorporate new measures to improve traffic on Holcomb Bridge through the area.
To free up money for the partnership, Roswell devised a plan that could save millions on Big Creek Parkway and funnel the savings into the interchange project with GDOT.
It all hinges on a redesign of Big Creek Parkway.
Modifications to the original design would provide a less-direct route over Ga. 400 but would still support about the same amount of traffic — and save the city $17 million. The savings could then go to support traffic flow improvements on Holcomb Bridge at Ga. 400.
The modified route would also reduce wetland impact and residential displacement.
GDOT has said it would be willing to partner with the city if Roswell agreed to a 60/40 split for the $38 million interchange improvement project. That would leave Roswell responsible for $23 million. It would also mean the city wouldn’t be able to fund all of Big Creek Parkway’s plans, said Roswell Director of Transportation Muhammad Rauf.
Since the Aug. 12 work session, city staff has revisited some design plans to see where the priorities of the Big Creek Parkway project lie and what costs can be reduced. Rauf said there are three portions of the project that the public has identified as high priority: creating a Warsaw connection from Warsaw Road to Old Holcomb Bridge Road; improving the Holcomb Bridge Road and Warsaw Road intersection; and improving Holcomb Woods Parkway.
Some sections, like Holcomb Woods Parkway, have a “lite” option that could save the city millions. The Holcomb Woods Parkway “lite” option, for example, could be removed as a Big Creek Parkway upgrade in favor of using other annual programs, such as resurfacing and sidewalk funds, to improve it. That would take the cost from $2 million to $280,000.
Adding another phase
Another option staff floated was to add a third phase for the Big Creek Parkway project. The third phase would be dedicated solely to the Warsaw connection, which is estimated to cost $5 million.
The proposed third phase would be created for the same reason the initial project was split into Phase 1 and 2 — timing, Rauf said.
Phase 1 construction, primarily widening Warsaw Road and adding turn lanes, is expected to start spring 2020 and take 18 months.
Phase 2, pretty much the rest of the route from Warsaw east over Ga. 400, then southeast to Holcomb Bridge Road, would start Spring 2021 and take 36 months.
Phase 3, the Warsaw connection to Old Holcomb Bridge Road, would start spring 2022 and take 12 months. Its $5 million price tag is primarily due to property acquisition.
Several council members said they were concerned about the 60/40 split with GDOT and about the city’s ability to complete all its projects.
“In a perfect world, we could do it just as it was designed originally and get the interchange,” said Councilwoman Marie Willsey. “Unfortunately, we’ve got a scarcity of resources. That’s where we are. We’ve got to make some really tough decisions.”
Residents at the meeting said they were also concerned about how much the Big Creek Parkway project has changed since it was approved by voters in the 2016 transportation sales tax referendum.
“The people I’m talking to in Roswell are saying that you’re changing the project on us that we voted for,” said Don Horton, a former member of the City Council. “It looks like if we’re going with the interchange that we’re basically giving benefit to more people outside of Roswell than to people in Roswell.”
Other residents echoed the sentiment saying that Big Creek Parkway would just create another cut-through road that Waze and Google Maps would direct drivers to use as they move in and out of the city.
Either way, said Councilman Matt Judy, the city needs to come to a decision soon.
“When asked where the largest traffic problem is, people always say Holcomb Bridge,” Judy said. “I want to make sure Holcomb Bridge gets redone before we lose the chance, while Roswell’s population continues to grow.”
Mayor Lori Henry said that the city is closing in on a decision. The City Council is expected to vote on it at the Sept. 9 meeting, which starts 7 p.m. at Roswell City Hall.