Does Our Input Matter or Not?
Time and again, residents find themselves asking a key question: Does our input provided to City Staff and Elected Official matter, or not? The most recent case in point involves road projects proposed along Barnwell Road.
Barnwell Road is almost exclusively residential. It serves as a collector road that feeds into larger thoroughfares. However, as traffic congestion continues to build, Barnwell Road is increasingly used as a cut-through alternative. Residential communities in the area are finding travel more difficult and dangerous as a result.
City Staff hosted a Public Input Meeting for the Barnwell Road corridor on March 28, 2019. The stated objective for that meeting was:
Public Works staff will provide an update and discuss traffic calming options as well as intersection improvements. A variety of alternatives are being evaluated at intersections along Barnwell Road to determine the appropriate solution based on operational and safety considerations.
These improvements could include turn lanes, roundabouts, or no change at the intersections along the road. Barnwell Road is a two-lane collector road and staff is seeking feedback from residents on how to best retain this collector status by improving safety, reducing traffic speeds, and volume.
Residents attending that meeting expressed their concerns and priorities. In addition to the Public Input Meeting, local residents met with Public Works to discuss options, alternatives, and designs. Residents felt that design options were narrowed to those best able to meet local needs while addressing traffic safety issues. Those options excluded medians, four lane roads, and roundabouts.
Fast forward to the agenda for the April 8, 2019 City Council Work Session Meeting. Item 4d under the Urgent and Important topic is discussion of the Intersection Prioritization Policy. The summary of Staff recommendations lists 41 prioritized intersections. Eight of those intersections are along Barnwell Road. Seven of the eight listed indicate a staff recommendation to include a roundabout.
Barnwell residents were understandably concerned that the work and effort they put into providing direct feedback and input to the process was seemingly ignored. Michael Fitzgerald made the point during Public Comments in the City Council Meeting that followed the Work Session.
This sequence of events follows a familiar pattern: set up and conduct Public Input Meetings, present concepts and plans at the Meetings, allow residents to comment, then issue recommendations that fail to recognize the concerns or objectives of residents.
The next iteration of this process is likely to see its first step on April 23, 2019. On that day, a Public Input Meeting will be held to discuss the Medlock Bridge/State Bridge Road Intersection. We had previously reported on the lack of communication associated with this particular meeting. Staff has already telegraphed plans to widen or re-stripe Medlock Bridge Road north of State Bridge Road to Grove Point Road to three lanes in each direction. State Bridge Road will be widened to three lanes west of Medlock Bridge Road up to Johns Creek High School. Expanding capacity to three lanes in each direction alongside residential communities has previously been widely and vigorously opposed by residents. It would appear that this effort is set to tackle that opposition by taking an incremental approach.
Resident input to decisions affecting our community is a critical factor in maintaining the reasons that many considered when choosing to make Johns Creek their home. City Staff and Elected Officials need to carefully consider the question: Does our input matter, or not?