Moderated by Tom Sabulis
A rollout of a billion dollars in mobility improvements over the next few years will alleviate traffic problems for those heading to the new Braves baseball stadium, writes the Cobb County Commission chairman. In our second column, a citizen leader says new transit technology should be considered, too. Ultimately, however, taxpayers will have bigger concerns than traffic.
By Tim Lee
The Atlanta Braves’ decision to locate in Cobb County can be directly attributed to the county’s transportation planning efforts and infrastructure improvements. With close to a billion dollars in mobility improvements being rolled out in the next several years, Cobb’s planning has paid off.
The Cumberland district is blessed with economic assets, two decades’ worth of infrastructure investments and a long history of visionary leadership. Already, the future stadium site has a well-developed network of 14 existing access points from the north, south east and west, and many more improvements in the works.
Our plan is to direct traffic through these multiple access points, thus smoothing potential bottlenecks and eliminating the need to travel through already congested interchanges.
In addition, Cobb Community Transit has five bus routes currently serving Cumberland as well as MARTA’s Route 12.
This access will be complemented by significant roadway improvements scheduled or already under construction, including the Windy Hill diverging diamond interchange and extensive Windy Hill Road improvements on both sides of I-75.
Other improvements include Cobb Parkway from Akers Mill to Paces Mill, which just had its groundbreaking with completion scheduled for mid-2016, and the Chattahoochee River bridge replacement, with construction expected to complete in December 2014.
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s Northwest Corridor I-75 Managed Lanes, to be open in 2018, will also address traffic congestion by increasing general purpose lane capacity as peak period travelers take advantage of the managed lane option.
Key projects under development include a pedestrian-transit bridge from the Galleria area to the stadium area, a shuttle system connecting the Galleria and Cumberland areas, parking and existing transit service, and a split-diamond interchange at Cobb Parkway and Cumberland.
Connect Cobb, the transit study recommending bus rapid transit technology serving the area from Kennesaw State University/Town Center through Cumberland and on the I-75 HOV lanes to the Arts Center Station in Midtown Atlanta, is presently in the environmental studies phase.
The study results so far demonstrate bus rapid transit is a cost-effective way to enhance our roadway network while supporting corridor development. We expect to complete the environmental assessment in spring 2014, and any resulting project could benefit the existing network.
Cobb County has a proud reputation of project development on schedule and on budget. Our history of management excellence, a welcoming business climate, and a well-planned infrastructure system is exactly what made us an attractive location to a world-class organization like the Braves. The road ahead is clear.
Tim Lee is chairman of the Cobb County Commission.
By Ron Sifen
Taxpayers may have legitimate concerns about some aspects of the Cobb-Braves deal, but traffic concerns may be greatly exaggerated.
Traffic management and parking in the immediate vicinity of the stadium will be a challenge, but the Braves and Cobb County are working on it. The traffic impact for the rest of Cobb may be minimal.
The Braves can help by scheduling weeknight games to start at 7:35 p.m. instead of 7:05 p.m. This will enable fans to begin their trip after the worst part of rush hour.
The stadium capacity will only be about 42,000. Braves games are typically attended by groups of two or more. Even if there were no transit, there probably would be no more than about 17,000 car trips, dispersed among numerous roads. Many of these trips will be in the opposite direction of rush-hour traffic. And in reality, there will be effective transit options that will eliminate several thousand of those car trips.
The I-75/575 managed lanes project will help considerably. That project will provide two extra lanes of capacity in the direction of rush hour traffic. Even people who stay in the general purpose lanes, and pay no tolls, will have reduced traffic as a result of the toll lanes. If 5,000 people decide to pay the toll during the height of rush hour, that is 5,000 fewer cars in the general purpose lanes.
Similar projects are planned for I-285. Revive285 Alternative 6-A (modifications at most interchanges and two new toll lanes in each direction between Cobb Parkway and Spaghetti Junction) would provide a pretty dramatic improvement for traffic on the top end of I-285. Already-planned improvements to Windy Hill Road will also help.
The region already has a very successful express bus network. After the afternoon express bus commute is completed, Braves fans could use the same express bus lots for express bus rides to Braves games. Express buses from throughout the region can provide excellent game-day transportation very cost-effectively.
Cobb is studying a BRT (bus rapid transit) plan for Cobb Parkway. I agree with Cobb that BRT would perform approximately as well as light rail at a much lower cost. Nevertheless, I would encourage Cobb to look at 21st century alternatives that might provide far better service at a far lower cost to operate and maintain.
Prior to Cobb announcing the Braves deal, the AJC had reported that the Braves were negotiating with American Maglev to build a transit connection between the Georgia State MARTA Station and Turner Field. Cobb should reopen its BRT study to take a closer look at 21st century technologies, like American Maglev and High Road, and explore whether one of these companies could provide superior transit service at a far lower cost than BRT.
Transit will be part of the equation, but it must be at a reasonable cost to taxpayers.
Also, Cobb should change the BRT route so that there would be a stop adjacent to the stadium.
Ron Sifen is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.