Road Widening vs. Road Capacity Increase - What's the Difference?

T-SPLOST and the NFCTP are about to be front-and-center on the agenda for Johns Creek City Council.

Traffic congestion is a top-of-list concern for most residents in Johns Creek.  Most recently, our City Council authorized $100,000 for a concept study for plans for Haynes Bridge Road.  One of the potential benefits that is anticipated from that project is the ability to funnel traffic AWAY from Johns Creek, and toward the major north/south artery at GA400.

The next items on the agenda are likely to turn to more contentious subjects: T-SPLOST projects along Medlock Bridge Road/141.

Previous Town Hall Meetings were held to discuss the potential widening of 141, and were met with widespread opposition by local residents.  As a result, further discussion was suspended.  That same topic is now on the agenda once again.  This is a critical topic for Johns Creek for many reasons.  How it is handled will have far-reaching, permanent impacts on the character of our residential community.

Our City Council is acutely aware of the opposition to road widening that played out in Town Hall Meetings in 2017.  With the reintroduction of traffic plans on the immediate horizon, we must be very clear in the language used while debating the topic.  Road "widening" will likely be seen as an off-limits description.  In its place, we're likely to hear about road "capacity enhancements".  What's the difference?  In the case of Medlock Bridge Road/141, the current two lanes in each direction can be increased to three lanes without requiring more asphalt.  That would be accomplished by reducing lane width from 12 feet to 11 feet, eliminating the existing bike lanes, and re-striping the road so that we have three lanes in each direction.  The road hasn't been widened, but the lanes have increased by 50%.  In the process, we would also lose any acceleration lanes that allow for merging from side streets.

Is this a good idea?  Perhaps not.  First, understand that Peachtree Corners has NO existing plans or timeline to widen 141 through their jurisdiction.  While we would provide for 50% more cars on Medlock Bridge Road, they would immediately reach a choke point just south of us.  We will have simply created a larger parking lot of cars sitting in traffic congestion in Johns Creek, limited by capacity to our immediate south.

Second, any increased capacity would encourage continued use of Johns Creek as a pass-through community for those on their way to somewhere else.  We have designated north/south arteries in GA400 and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.  If our desire is to address traffic congestion in Johns Creek, we should be funneling traffic to those corridors rather than building one through the heart of our own city, particularly when roads to both the north and south of us will remain at just two lanes.

There is a concern that our elected representatives may use semantics and parsing of words to take stands that appear to be in alignment with our residents, but deliver that which residents have strongly opposed.  Don't be fooled by statements in opposition to "road widening" while supporting "capacity enhancements".

We were told by our elected representatives that any T-SPLOST projects were budgets - and we were promised that not one of them would move forward until our City Council approved both the concept and the plan.  We must hold our representatives to that commitment, and have them clearly state their position regarding the upcoming discussions and debate.