No easy answers for Medlock Bridge Road

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I went to the public meeting last Wednesday night at Johns Creek City Hall for details about the expansion of Medlock Bridge Road from four lanes to six lanes.
It was jammed packed with mostly St. Ives residents. But they were by no means the only concerned residents.
The overwhelming sense of the public was that they did not want to see a through lane added north and south on Medlock.
That decision – barring a deferral – will be made Monday night, and I am writing this well before hand.
I write this before the meeting not to influence it. I don’t have that kind of pull either way. And as stated, my observations will likely be after the fact anyway.
We launched the Johns Creek Herald Aug. 22, 1997 having decided that this part of unincorporated North Fulton County merited the kind of community news that Roswell and Alpharetta were not getting.
We thought at that time one day there would be a city of Johns Creek, but I don’t pretend to have thought I would live to be Herald’s editor. I knew Sandy Springs had been on that path for decades with no results.
Well, events moved more quickly than we ever dreamed.
I say this to let our readers know I have watched and wrote about Johns Creek for a long time.
They say history repeats itself. I recall attending a meeting sponsored by the Georgia Department of Transportation. It was a meeting to gauge citizen response to a plan to widen Jones Bridge Road from two lanes to four.
Most people didn’t like the idea. They were in agreement that it would only encourage more traffic. One particularly irate Jones Bridge resident near McGinnis Ferry Road said he could hardly get out of the subdivision as it was. He said that they shouldn’t do anything to the roads.
“Just let the traffic get so bad until it can’t move. Then they’ll have to go somewhere else.”
And he got his way. It remained two lanes.
Those words never left me. Twenty years later, I would here the same remark being made about Medlock Bridge Road.
Then a little later, the battle with GDOT moved to State Bridge Road. Alpharetta was revamping that city’s transportation grid with a $63 million makeover. Part of that was to four-lane Old Milton Parkway/State Bridge Road to its city limits.
County residents (now Johns Creek) fought extending those lanes into Gwinnett County. That is when I first met Margaret Krueger, a community activist and organizer who predated the Johns Creek Community Association by a generation.
And she got her way. It remained two lanes.
However, there is no stopping the growth that has relentlessly spread northward from I-285. It made the cities of Johns Creek and Milton possible.
Margaret Krueger and her neighbors were heeded. GDOT seldom forces its way. It has so many supplicants for asphalt it could easily afford to be patient.
The day came to pass when the reality could no longer be ignored, and the lanes did come to State Bridge and Jones Bridge.
And here is the truth I learned as did my friend on Jones Bridge Road. Yes, the traffic does continue to worsen. But it does not worsen to the point no one uses that road anymore.
Long before the passers-through are discouraged and find alternate routes, the people living on the road demand relief.
Does this mean Medlock Bridge Road is in the same boat? I am no traffic engineer. But I have seen this situation play out in DeKalb, Cobb, Fayette and Paulding counties. I have been to similar meetings in their cities. Some said OK, and some fought tooth and nail.
But in the end, the widenings occurred. Is that fair? I don’t know. Is it fair when the tide rises? Usually by the time new lanes are in, people are grateful for the relief.
Now there was an impressive hand-out at the community meeting last week that argued against the widening of Medlock Bridge Road.
It offered “realistic alternatives” to widening the road. Its thesis that the city must choose whether to make Medlock an efficient thru-put to I-285 or:
“Optimize the road in such a way that it helps Johns Creek residents without destroying the traditional character of our community.”
I don’t pretend to understand what that last bit means. I do know the handout called on the city to do some other things that would ease traffic without paving.
It called on the city to “optimize traffic signal time thru-put.” Again, I am no expert but I defy anyone to show me a better real-time computerized traffic management system than Johns Creek employs. (See the Johns Creek Herald, Nov. 9, 2016, article: 21st technology keeps city traffic rolling - http://northfulton.com/stories/21st-Century-technology-keeps-city-traffic-rolling,98911?)
As my Uncle George used to say, “That dog won’t hunt.”
The handout goes on to offer other ideas for “tweaking” traffic management along Medlock, and I admit I have no idea of their efficacy. But I doubt if they are solutions unknown to the Public Works Department.
Its last suggestion – “coordinate with adjacent jurisdictions on improvement programs” – leaves out one detail. What is an improvement program?
Adjacent jurisdictions are coordinating – but it is to widen not just Medlock but several roads, and they lead into Johns Creek as well – McGinnis Ferry Road, Abbotts Bridge Road and State Bridge Road.
So I understand Johns Creek feels besieged. I have seen communities go through changes since I came to the Atlanta area in 1976. Change has been Atlanta’s constant.
Johns Creek has seen a lot of change, growing from a lot of farmland out in the middle of nowhere to a thriving bedroom community with excellent schools.
Like many other communities, Johns Creek does not have the ability to hold up a hand and say stop. Enough. Change goes on, and we must adapt. Doing nothing is an adaptation, but usually it is the worst choice.
Johns Creek will adapt. It has to. Forsyth County has 5,492 vacant and developed lots with another 15,470 lots zoned residential.
I don’t envy the Johns Creek City Council whatever it decides.


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