JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek City Council has thrown into question GDOT’s Medlock Bridge Road resurfacing plans while it decides whether to proceed with a proposal to reduce lane width.
The council spent a significant part of its Aug. 5 work session and council meeting debating whether to ask the Georgia Department of Transportation to change its plans to reduce lane widths along the Medlock Bridge corridor, also known as Ga. 141, from 12 feet to 11.
GDOT is resurfacing the state route for five miles from the Gwinnett County line at the Chattahoochee River north to the Forsyth County line at McGinnis Ferry Road. The schedule for work will run through February 2020.
In April, the Johns Creek Public Works Department requested that GDOT, as part of the resurfacing project, reduce lane width. GDOT agreed to make the change, which would allow for a wider shoulder, at no additional cost to the city.
The Public Works Department said a wider shoulder would create a number of safety benefits: more space to maneuver if drivers need to avoid an accident, a place to pull over if their car breaks down and more space for emergency vehicles to navigate traffic.
Police Chief and Interim City Manager Ed Densmore said a shoulder would have a “significant” impact in the ability for public safety teams to improve traffic flow after an accident.
“By the time you put one police car, the ambulance, a [Traffic Response Vehicle], a wrecker and a firetruck, there’s no place for us to put all that,” Densmore said. “When you can clear that stuff off and open up the roadway faster, you’re actually going to expedite it.”
The Public Works Department also planned to request that GDOT lower the speed limit from 55 to 45 mph along the road, which it said would further improve safety.
Public Works Director Lynette Baker said the odds of GDOT approving the speed limit change without narrowing the lanes were “very low.” With the 11-foot lanes, Baker estimated there was a “75 to 80 percent” chance GDOT would accept the speed limit change.
“As the Public Works director, I think it’s incredibly important to reduce the speed where we can in highly congested areas,” Baker said.
The Public Safety Department endorsed the speed limit recommendation.
“I’ve never understood why it went from 45 to 55 through Johns Creek,” Densmore said. “From an enforcement perspective, when you’re talking 55 that’s really 65 ... which to me, traveling through a residential area, is ludicrous. You shouldn’t be traveling that fast.”
GDOT was receptive to the Johns Creek Public Works Department’s suggestions and was prepared to move forward with the resurfacing, when Councilman John Bradberry put forward a resolution that would ask GDOT to ignore the 11-foot request and repave the road at its current configuration.
“We have a desire to keep the look and feel as it is,” Bradberry said. “Going to 11-foot lanes would change that to a more urban feel.”
Councilwoman Stephanie Endres also put forward a resolution, though hers did not favor either 11-foot or 12-foot lanes. Instead it criticized the process — that the city staff submitted the request to GDOT without running it by the City Council first — and reiterated that the repaving would not impact the number of lanes.
Mayor Mike Bodker agreed that the council should have been informed about the lane-width change sooner, but he stood by the 11-foot recommendation.
“I don’t like how we got here,” Bodker said. “I’ll admit that, but why would I penalize the outcome because I didn’t like the process? We can correct the process in the future.”
Bodker said that allowing GDOT to continue with 11-foot lanes would potentially save the city money, would marginally move light pollution and noise away from homes along the road, would lead to the safety benefits of a wider shoulder and would help justify lowering the speed limit.
Ultimately the City Council did not pass either of the resolutions Aug. 5, in part because two council members were absent, but they plan to continue the discussion at their next meeting Aug. 19.
GDOT has begun working on the road — prepping the equipment, patching and milling — but is still weeks away from laying down new pavement. There will be time for GDOT to take into consideration whatever the council decides Aug. 19, but ultimately the lane width will be up to the state department.