Jones Bridge Road Widening Returns
Johns Creek’s City Council began debates around the potential widening of Jones Bridge Road in late 2018. After much wrangling, the topic was put on the back burner for future consideration - the future having arrived at the Monday July 8, 2019 City Council Work Session.
For background, you can find a recap of the original discussion on November 5, 2018 here, a summary of Mayor Bodker’s veto of City Council’s majority decision on November 26, 2018 here, and the subsequent failure of City Council to overturn that veto when Councilman Jay Lin changed his position on December 10, 2018 here.
At issue in the debate was the extent of flexibility available for City Council to direct the Public Works department to consider options and alternatives to deliver traffic congestion relief while respecting and preserving the residential character of our community along the Jones Bridge Road corridor. Council Members Bradberry, Coughlin, Endres, and Zaprowski were originally joined by Councilman Lin (prior to his change in position) in requesting that Public Works should work on additional design concepts that would minimize the impact to neigborhoods. Mayor Bodker vetoed that decision, basing his action on the premise that anything less than a four lane widening of Jones Bridge Road would open the city to potential lawsuits for not adhering to TSPLOST project descriptions.
At the July 8, 2019 meeting, Public Works requested the authorization of funds to do two things:
Design engineering with the intent of structuring the project footprint to be wide enough to support five lanes (two in each direction plus a center turn lane), including medians and sidewalks at a cost of $150,000 for that phase, and
Traffic Study to determine the projected volume of traffic over time that would necessitate restriping the widened road from an initial three lanes (one in each direction and one center turn lane) to an ultimate goal of five lanes.
The approach of striping for three lanes while building to accommodate five lanes was positioned as a compromise, with the traffic study meant to identify the “tipping point” at which time the full five lanes would be necessary to allow for increased volumes.
Familiar lines were drawn during Council’s discussion. Councilman Coughlin questioned whether the potential investment of more than $11 million was worth the minimal reduction in travel time, noting that the center turn lane would likely deliver the majority of the benefit without the need for five lanes. Councilman Bradberry brought up his concern that we were unnecessarily constraining ourselves and foregoing other options in the mistaken belief that we were required to adhere to TSPLOST project definitions that were vague at best. The definitions approved by City Council were purposely vague with the intent of allowing wide latitude to fulfill project intentions, yet the Mayor has used his veto and threats of lawsuits that limit options. Other cities in North Fulton have allowed themselves flexibility, and to that point, Councilman Bradberry read from Roswell’s TSPLOST collateral where it clearly stated that their City Council reserves the right to adjust projects in the interest of the community, and mentioned that Alpharetta has practiced discretion in their TSPLOST efforts as well. Councilwoman Endres supported Bradberry’s points, noting that communications to the public from our Mayor stated that City Council would have full oversight and approval of any TSPLOST projects before they could move forward.
The discussion ended with approval to send the engineering and traffic study work to the regular Council meeting for approval. Only Councilman Bradberry opposed the proposal for a five lane footprint with an initial three lane striping, noting that it will be a compromise that still leads to five lanes. He opposes the notion that the City of Johns Creek is limited to a strict definition of TSPLOST projects based on a circumspect premise.
The engineering design will take approximately six months, while the traffic study will be prepared sooner. Those will become pieces of the continuing discussion of road widening topics before the City Council. In the interim, the ongoing debate over the authority of City Council to exercise a degree of discretion over these road projects will continue.