September 15, 2015
We sincerely regret that our residents experienced the traffic delays of Sept. 11 along Old Alabama Rd. and adjacent roads. Traffic improvement projects are never easy due to the physical nature of the work and we recognize that they always pose some level of inconvenience. However, this particular issue, which was the result of a series of unfortunate factors, rises well above the level of “inconvenience” and we understand the resulting frustration regarding what transpired.
After working with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to alleviate the immediate problem, we better understand what factors led to this issue and we wanted to share them with you.
The project, which is being managed by GDOT, will widen Old Alabama Road from Buice Road to Medlock Bridge Road to four lanes; two in each direction, separated by a 20-foot-wide median. A 5-foot sidewalk will be built south of Old Alabama Road and a 10-foot multi-use trail will be added on the north side. An additional left-turn lane will be added on Medlock Bridge Road onto Old Alabama Road.
GDOT began their road widening project on Old Alabama Road two weeks ago by preparing to shift westbound traffic to what had been one of two eastbound left-turn lanes.
As the traffic shift was executed on Sept. 11, an underground sensor that tells the traffic signal a green light is needed, had not been installed in the eastbound far right lane. As vehicles in the right lane backed up, vehicles wanting to turn left found they couldn’t get to the left-turn lane, which did have a sensor. After a few seconds without detecting a vehicle, the left-turn lane sensor would tell the signal that a green light was no longer required. The bottom line was that the signal from Old Alabama Road onto Medlock Bridge Road was remaining green for about eight seconds, only long enough to allow six or so vehicles to get through the intersection at a time. Unprecedented congestion built up on Old Alabama, Buice, and other nearby roads.
The second factor compounding this issue was that even though left turns are now allowed from the far right lane from Old Alabama onto Medlock Bridge Road, the road striping didn’t communicate that. With only one lane turning left at time, the number of vehicles that could get in line to turn was half of what was actually available.
Finally, the traffic camera that monitors this intersection went out earlier in the week, which prevented the Johns Creek Traffic Control Center (TCC) from being able to see the traffic issue. As soon as we began receiving calls and emails from the public, we contacted GDOT that there was a problem at the intersection, and dispatched one of our own traffic engineers to the intersection.
Once on scene, our engineer manually set the timing of the lights to extend the green light on eastbound movement to help clear out congestion. He then reset the program to automatically place 50 seconds per cycle until the GDOT contractor installs the detection to match the lane shift.
We have spoken with GDOT about adding additional measures to help mitigate congestion and they have agreed to extend the two eastbound lanes back another 350 feet, which will help move more vehicles with each traffic light cycle. Also, two additional mobile electronic signs were installed, one at Old Alabama Road and one on Buice Road, alerting motorists that they are approaching a construction zone and to expect delays.
On Sept. 16, GDOT plans to have their contractor repair the traffic signal loop between 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Their contractors will also work from 9 p.m. - 1 a.m. removing old striping and restripe the road to help reduce traffic build up from Old Alabama Road to SR 141/Medlock Bridge Road.
We hope to have a new camera installed at the intersection in the next couple of days to help us monitor the traffic from the TCC at City Hall, as a matter of routine.
We will do our best with our own projects and those of GDOT, to ensure our residents are well served by the traffic improvements. We have many more on the way and we will work through each as expeditiously as possible while, at the same time, do everything we can to help mitigate higher levels of traffic congestion.
The Old Alabama-Medlock Bridge project is one of eight city and state projects underway citywide. More than 110,000 people have moved into surrounding communities since 2010 with more on the way. Johns Creek sits at a crossroads and is an attractive throughway for many commuters looking to avoid congestion on GA 400 and I-85.
Johns Creek has taken a strategic approach in its effort to improve our roadways. We communicate with GDOT and track their progress. However, the timing of the construction on both sides is often dependent on the availability of state and federal funding. When funding is available we have to utilize it in a specific timeframe or it may no longer be available.
We currently have a list of more than 25 potential projects through 2019 to help manage the growing traffic challenge. We are working through these as quickly as we are able with prudent planning, and we will do everything we can to mitigate congestion throughout the process.