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Old Atlanta plan gets mixed reviews
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Jeff Church, with Gresham, Smith and Partners listens as Tara Nowakowski talks about her disappointment with the widening plan. Church's company is the engineering firm in charge of the project's design. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Written statements concerning the proposed widening of Old Atlanta Road can be sent until Dec. 12 to Forsyth County’s engineering department, 110 E. Main St., Suite 120, Cumming, GA 30040. To view the proposed project or comment online, visit
Area residents had mixed reviews after getting their first look at plans for widening Old Atlanta Road.

St. Marlo resident Tara Nowakowski was “not happy.”

“I think people who use the road as a through-way to get from point A to point B that don’t live off the road, they’re going to think it’s great because they’re going to get where they want to go quicker,” she said.

“But the people who live on the road and enjoy the country winding roads and the prettiness of it, we’re going to lose that ... we’re also going to get the noise. And it’s going to be dangerous, more than it already is.”

The plans, displayed on cafeteria lunch tables Thursday afternoon at Sharon Elementary School, showed both Phase I and II of the project.

Phase I proposes widening Old Atlanta Road from Sharon Road to just past James Burgess Road.

Phase II would complete the four-lane widening from James Burgess Road to McGinnis Ferry Road.

The full stretch would be widened from two to four lanes, with a 20-foot raised median, curb and gutter, sidewalks and turn lanes.

Brian O’Connor, with Gresham, Smith and Partners design firm, said about 120 comment forms had been filled out during the open house.

Among the most common concerns were the median, signals near subdivisions, the presence of sidewalks and “the impacts to their individual properties.”

“What we will do after this meeting is we will go over every single comment card that we get with the county ... and address it as best we can,” he said. “The final decisions are up to the county, but we give them recommendations.”

Tim Allen, assistant director of the county's engineering department, said widening for the first phase would be funded through the current 1-cent sales tax and would take 12 to 14 months to build, starting as soon as fall 2010.

But Phase II likely would not be funded until the next round of the sales tax, which will be up for voter approval in 2013.

“We’re looking at the end of 2013, first of 2014, somewhere in that neighborhood, and it would take about two years to build,” he said. “You’re looking at a 2016 completion, and that’s optimistically if everything goes the best it can go.”

Steve Neblett, a Laurel Springs resident, said he came to the open house to get a feel for the plan.

“I think it’s a much needed improvement, we just want to make sure that the safety concerns are met,” he said. “With two schools in the area trying to exit out of Laurel Springs onto the northbound lane of Old Atlanta [it's] already difficult.

"We just want to make sure for the young drivers who are starting over at Lambert [High School] ... that it’s a safe area for them.”

Neblett has lived in the community for six years. He plans to do more research on the necessity of another traffic light near his subdivision, but is mostly concerned about safety and traffic flow.

“I can see where some tweaking may be needed, some minor improvements ... but it looks like a solid plan to me, as far as I’m concerned.”

While she won't lose any property to the project, Nowakowski is concerned about the decline in value if a four-lane highway is visible from her window.

“Our property values are already dropping and now add a four-lane road,” she said. “Would you buy a house on a four-lane road?”

She suggested just improving intersections and adding turn lanes before going through with the widening process.

But if the county goes with the existing plan, Nowakowski said she would at worst be happy with a sound barrier wall “running from the back gate of St. Marlo to the last house on that road.”

“It would keep our property values up and it would keep us safe, I think.”