What Kind of Community Do We Want?
Johns Creek City Council voted 4 - 3 to direct Public Works City Staff to develop a fourth option designed to improve traffic flow through the Medlock Bridge Road / State Bridge Road intersection. Staff had previously presented three concepts for consideration at a Public Input Meeting on April 23, 2019, and created a survey for feedback that seemed designed to limit input to those three options (our assessment can be found here).
Subsequent to the Public Input Meeting, residents had the opportunity to attend the quarterly Town Hall on May 2, 2019. At that meeting, several residents noted that recent changes to the Medlock Bridge/State Bridge intersection had improved traffic flow, and asked whether any quantifiable data had been collected and considered in the development of the three concepts City Staff presented for additional efforts. The participants stated their concerns that those concepts would have a negative impact on adjacent residential neighborhoods. The City of Johns Creek also received a letter from a Homeowners Association representing 795 homes stating their opposition to the three concepts.
Given public concerns, and having invested time into studying Staff’s concepts and exploring alternatives, Councilman John Bradberry presented a motion to add an item to the agenda for the May 6, 2019 City Council Meeting to discuss the interim solution for 141 and State Bridge Road. The resulting discussion took over an hour to complete, and touched on several aspects of the intersection and concept design considerations. Some key points:
Capacity for turning left from Medlock Bridge Road to State Bridge Road going west would be reduced with the loss of one left turn lane under Staff concepts
A dedicated right turn lane going north on Medlock Bridge Road to State Bridge going east could provide benefit
The extent of widening from two lanes to three on Medlock Bridge Road north of the intersection appears exceedingly long.
When asked about the extent of widening along Medlock Bridge Road, Public Works Director Lynette Baker stated that distances were based on GDOT guidelines. It was noted during the discussion that other State Roads in Johns Creek include tapering of lanes that occur in much shorter distances than those reflected in the three concepts.
In explaining how lane tapering from three lanes to two lanes was determined, Director Baker referenced distances from existing roadway access points - specifically the two drives that are near the car wash and the Medlock Corners shopping center. Suggestions were made that perhaps one of the two drives that are so close together could be closed, or converted from an in/out access to a right-in only access. Mayor Bodker expressed his concern that the impact to local businesses would be a problem, to which Councilwoman Endres replied stating that the concerns of commercial properties should not automatically outweigh the concerns of the residents who pay taxes and live in the community.
Near the conclusion of the discussion, Mayor Bodker requested clarity on the task to be assigned to City Staff. Councilman Bradberry’s request was for Staff to hold public meetings with the community, affected Homeowner’s Association and residents to develop a fourth option with a specific objective of minimizing the impact to residential neighborhoods. To date, these plans and concepts have been developed with little or no resident involvement. Councilman Bradberry requested that a fourth concept option be developed with true public and adjacent resident participation. His motion found support from Councilman Broadbent, Councilman Coughlin, and Councilwoman Endres. Mayor Bodker, Councilman Lin, and Councilman Zaprowski voted in opposition.
Johns Creek Staff and City Council have another opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to working with residents to develop plans that balance the need to improve traffic flow with the interest of maintaining our residential character. In response to the Mayor asking why the need to explore a less intrusive alternative, Councilman Bradberry expressed a very apt metaphor. For the residents whose quality of life will be further negatively impacted by the encroachment of 141, Bradberry pointed out that the difference between a regional and international airport is the length of its runways and the associated pollution, noise, and industrialization that are pitted against the local community. Most residents recognize the need to improve the intersection. The question is how and if that improvement will be in line with the priorities of our local community, or developed to the benefit of the greater region and state.