ROSWELL, Ga. — Roswell’s transportation department has been recognized nationally as a pioneer in the field, thanks to the efforts of its director Steve Acenbrak.
Acenbrak has been with the city for 13 years after spending 20 years in the Army and retiring out of Fort McPherson. During that time, however, Acenbrak took a break with the city and became an independent engineering consultant with other cities in the Atlanta area.
That experience, Acenbrak said, helped him gain valuable new perspectives on how to solve transportation issues in Roswell once he returned.
Some of these highlights include replacing the bridge on Grimes Bridge Road and building the area’s first roundabout at the intersection of Grimes Bridge Road, Norcross Street and Warsaw Road. Both of these projects were unique from a design point of view, Acenbrak said.
“We’ve done infrastructure improvement projects that are different from standard projects,” Acenbrak said.
The bridge, for example, has three legs, and the roundabout has five legs. The city is also currently constructing a multi-lane roundabout, not only a first in the area, but the first multi-lane roundabout on a state route.
These projects have not gone unnoticed, and staff has been invited to multiple conferences to speak on them. Moreover, students from universities like Georgia Tech frequently visit Roswell to study the projects.
Acenbrak ascribes much of the successes to the creativity of his staff and the support of the mayor and City Council.
But not everyone supported these projects at first. Acenbrak said that there was a lot of opposition at first, and previous proposed roundabout projects were frequently shot down.
“There was an enormous backlash, publicly, over it,” Acenbrak said of the 2011 roundabout. “I can’t even tell you how bad. As the public became aware that we were doing this, there was apprehension. It was new. It was different. And it was nothing they could relate to.”
However, attitudes changed toward this “new monster” once people saw how successful the project was at relieving traffic and minimizing what was once an accident-prone area. Roswell’s first roundabout blazed a trail for more to be constructed. Now at least a dozen roundabouts dot north Fulton and more are planned to come.
“It has become an amazing chapter in this city’s history,” Acenbrak said. “I’ve gotten thank you notes – and first of all, we don’t get thank you notes in this business – from people who had previously been extremely against it.”
However, Acenbrak said that Roswell is still greatly struggling with connectivity.
Roswell is a city of rolling hills, according to Acenbrack, and a lot of the roads follow these ridge lines, which isn’t always the best for traffic patterns.
He added that one-third of the entire city’s streets end in cul-de-sacs.
“It’s one of the highest percentages nationally,” Acenbrak said. “It’s extremely unusual.”
The high concentration of cul-de-sacs can create conflict points for traffic and residents in those neighborhoods.
“When you only have one entrance or exit to some place, if there’s an accident or emergency, people can be trapped,” Acenbrak said. “We’ve had that happen in the past. So we’re trying to open up these various places so people have more mobility.”
One of the biggest projects the department is currently working on aims to ameliorate these issues by adding more connections between existing streets. The Sun Valley Expansion project is expected to make a throughway from Mansell Road to Ga. 9 to relieve congestion along those corridors. Phase I is already in construction, and Phase II and III are in the works.
Acenbrak encourages transparency and open dialog between residents and his department. For example, the city has an app called seeclickfix that residents can use to report potholes or other road damages.
They also have a free alert system called Nixle that residents can sign up for to receive traffic and emergency alerts in the city.