Published on June 16th, 2016 |


Buckhead 50 Club told I-285/GA400 interchange redo to begin in October

Construction on the massive redo of the I-285/GA400 interchange will likely kick off this October and then take four years to complete, Butch Welch, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s project manager, told the Buckhead 50 Club Tuesday night.

Butch Welch, GDOT's project manager for the massive redo of the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange, speaks to the Buckhead 50 Club.

Butch Welch, GDOT’s project manager for the massive redo of the I-285/GA400 interchange, speaks to the Buckhead 50 Club.

Besides rebuilding the interchange, the project also adds “collector-distributor lanes”—which physically separate exit and entrance lanes—to GA400 north to Sandy Springs’ Spalding Drive and to I-285 between Roswell Road and Ashford-Dunwoody Road.

The GA400/Abernathy Road interchange in Sandy Springs will be rebuilt as a “diverging diamond,” where traffic flow directions change in time with traffic lights to move cars through faster.

GDOT Communications Manager Jill Goldberg helped Welch with the update on the project which is one of the largest undertaken by GDOT in recent times. The project remains essentially the same as earlier announced, but there was some new information on issues such as traffic impact and the surprisingly low bid of the winning contractor team.

The 285/GA400 project and other GDOT plans got a skeptical response from members of the civic and social club. “In general, you build more roads, you get more traffic,” one audience member said.

Goldberg said GDOT is no longer adding regular lanes to highways. “Managed lanes” are what is in vogue—express toll lanes where drivers pay varying fees based on traffic volume. “Someday, the whole Perimeter will be connected by managed lanes,” Goldberg said.

This is a rendering of what the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange will look like when completed.

This is a rendering of what the I-285/GA400 interchange will look like when completed.

Safety is a major reason cited for the project by Welch. The interchange currently forces drivers to change lanes rapidly to enter or exit. He said he’s surprised there aren’t more accidents.

Welch said the project will have “minimal traffic disruptions,” with most of the work taking place at night. He also said traffic should improve during construction because various ramps and lanes will open as they are finished, instead of shutting the whole interchange down and reopening it all at once.

“I think as the project progresses, you’re going to be seeing just more freedom of movement through the corridor,” Welch told those attending the Buckhead 50 Club meeting at the American Legion Hall on the south end of Chastain Park June 14.

Asked about the projected impact on traffic through Buckhead, Welch said it’s “hard to say.” But Goldberg predicted some cut-through traffic is likely as drivers “get scared” by the project. GDOT is planning a system of real-time construction and detour updates for the project.

The GDOT team provided the Buckhead 50 members some construction supply numbers:

One of the GDOT project slides presented during the presentation June 14.

One of the GDOT project slides presented during the presentation June 14.

  • 33 bridges will be built or rehabbed.
  • More than 1 million square feet of noise-blocking walls will be built, and a similar amount of retaining walls. The noise walls will be concrete facing on a foam core. They will replace all existing noise walls, which Welch said some people describe as “trailer park” in appearance.
  • It will take 400,000 tons of asphalt to pave the I-285 section and 2 million square feet of concrete paving on Ga. 400.
  • 125,000 linear square feet of storm drains will be installed.

GDOT had originally estimated the project budget at $803 million but the winning bid came in at just $460 million. Goldberg later explained that the contractors actually found efficiencies by improvements made in the plans. One area of cost efficiencies was also in the project financing.  GDOT is using a method where the contractor finances most of it.

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