New GA 400 Exit on Kimball Bridge Road?

GA 400 Flex Lanes on Kimball Bridge Rd

Over the weekend Alpharetta City Council Candidate Ben Burnett invited me to an event hosted by residents along Kimball Bridge Road. For more than an hour the residents shared many questions and comments about a number of concerns but the hottest topic of conversation was traffic along the Kimball Bridge corridor.

KBR design

As many of you may recall the voters of Alpharetta approved a municipal bond project which included road and intersection improvements for the stretch of Kimball Bridge Road between Waters Road and Northpoint Parkway. We talked about those plans and discussed the neighborhood concerns about adding a roundabout where the red light at New Prospect Elementary School is now.

Neighbors also brought up the topic of developments along Northwinds Parkway and Kimball Bridge Road west of GA 400. So Ben and I explained the plans for road improvements being discussed with the Georgia Department of Transportation as part of the TSPLOST project list.

You can find the full list of those projects here. And as we discussed proposed road improvements for the west side of Kimball Bridge Road it became apparent none of the residents along Kimball Bridge Road had any idea that the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to replace their bridge over GA 400 with one that will include on and off ramps for managed toll lanes onto Kimball Bridge.

In fact the residents in attendance were shocked. So I explained that Alpharetta’s Director of Engineering and Public Works had presented plans for the exits to our mayor and council during a public workshop in May. Then I encouraged residents along Kimball Bridge Road to start paying close attention to the Department of Transportation plans because the work is expected to begin in 2020 and if they wait much longer it could be too late.

For those of you not familiar with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Managed Lane Program for the GA 400 corridor you can read more on their website here. You can also watch video of the public presentation we received at our May 22nd meeting on the Alpharetta city website here. If you follow that link and click on the agenda item number 10 below the video it will skip to the Kimball Bridge discussion which began at the 2:51:30 point of the video.

These days there are so many changes taking place in Alpharetta it is nearly impossible for our residents to keep up. And it could have been a real mess if the families most impacted by toll lane exits on Kimball Bridge Road had not found out until it was too late.

Neighborhood meetings are a great way to keep the lines of communication open between council members and our constituents. I am glad to know Mr. Burnett appreciates that.


A modest MARTA proposal

Lately there has been a great deal of talk about the need to bring mass transit trains to and through our fair city of Alpharetta. I previously explained here how the Mayor of Johns Creek advocated the urbanization of Alpharetta because he feels that his constituents are underserved by MARTA. I also showed you how the rainmaker for the local chamber of commerce is pushing a train system that would run through my neighborhood to serve residents in Johns Creek and Duluth.

I personally abhor taxpayer subsidized trains because I believe they waste money on an inflexible and inefficient transportation system. I won’t rehash my reasons for this position now but you can click on the transportation tag to the right of your screen for more background. But for the sake of argument let us assume that trains will be built to serve Johns Creek and Duluth.

The question then becomes, “Why go through Alpharetta to get to Duluth when there is a much more intelligent and economical solution to extending trains into North Fulton and Gwinnett counties.” Below is a proposed path for a MARTA rail extension that would only require about 10 miles of rail as opposed to the 30 necessary for the plan currently being suggested.

The smarta MARTA

The route shown above requires only 10 miles of new rail lines which is 1/3rd of what would be required for the plan proposed by DOT board member and Chamber of Commerce CEO Brandon Beach. Not only would this route save BILLIONS of dollars but it could be completed in a fraction of the time. That is a tremendous amount of time and money that could be better spent making other much needed infrastructure improvements.

In addition to saving Georgia taxpayers time and money my proposal is also superior to the one being floated by Mr. Beach because it would relieve traffic congestion on both I-85 and GA 400 simultaneously. If you extend MARTA along GA 400 it would only relieve congestion along one existing main artery but by placing a train between two of the most congested highways in Atlanta we could actually double the impact for one third of the cost.

So as you can clearly see, if we decide to expand rail into North Fulton and North Gwinnett then the obvious way to do it would be to extend the Doraville line up the Hwy 141 corridor. And since the solution is so obvious I hope Mayor Bodker will immediately begin pushing land use policies for Johns Creek to help facilitate this important regional initiative. Undoubtedly Mayor Bodker’s constituents will be thrilled with his vision and leadership on this matter.

GA 400: Atlanta’s Information Highway

Yesterday I wrote about the distribution of Atlanta’s high wage workers and low wage workers as reported by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Not surprisingly the maps showed that the overwhelming majority of high wage earners in the metropolitan area live in the wedge formed between I75 and I85 on the North side of Atlanta.

That was interesting but not surprising. What I found more interesting and definitely more surprising was that is a big difference in the types of high wage earners that reside inside the perimeter (ITP) and those that live outside the perimeter (OTP). And counterintuitively I found that the higher earning professionals were actually more concentrated OTP.

As you can see on the map below the vast majority of people described as professional, scientific and technical workers live ITP in Buckhead or Dunwoody. According to the report this would include lawyers, accountants, architects and presumably doctors since the area includes Pill Hill where many of Atlanta’s hospitals are concentrated. Just like the location of high earners in general I found that interesting but not surprising.

What I found surprising was that the overwhelming majority of so-called “information” workers actually live outside the perimeter in North Fulton and South Forsyth county. The information workers are described as internet, telecommunications and data processing professoinals and according to the chart they average almost 20% higher monthly salaries ($6900 mo./ $5800 mo.) than the more traditional professionals who choose to live inside the perimeter.

It’s widely known that Alpharetta has many computer, telecommunications and data companies located here but I was really surprised to see that so few of these professionals choose to live downtown. Maybe they got tired of paying the tolls?

Perhaps we should change GA 400’s nickname from the Hospitality Highway to the Information Highway. Who came up with that silly Hospitality Highway in the first place?

(click to enlarge)

Georgia Legislators could use a refresher on Barn Doors and Horses

The AJC reports that Georgia legislators are trying to stop the extension of tolls on GA 400 but it looks like a futile effort since the State Road and Tollway Authority has already pocketed the money. The time to stop that travesty was before SRTA voted to keep their bureaucratic jobs funded for the foreseeable future. But unfortunately the North Fulton political delegation didn’t think to close the barn door until SRTA had already taken millions of taxpayer dollars out for a ride. 

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I appreciate representative Jones’ attempt to correct this money grab by SRTA. But I would have expected a politician from Georgia’s horse country to know better than leave the barn door open while SRTA director, Gena Evans, was looking for a way to justify her six figure salary.

But if elected officials are serious about this effort then it should make SRTA’s upcoming town hall meetings next month very interesting. SRTA will have a public comment opportunity on Wednesday, January 5th, hosted by the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce at 11605 Haynes Bridge Road, Suite 100, Alpharetta, GA 30009. I encourage everyone to come out and join the fun.

[1/4/11 Ed. note: Yesterday a commenter pointed out that I failed to include the times of the town hall meeting so please note that according to the SRTA website the meeting will be held from 4:00 -7:00 p.m.]