Local residents again told Alpharetta city staff that Rucker Road needs to remain a two-lane road with residential characteristics. That might be a tough challenge for what has long been a major connector for Cherokee and Roswell residents on their way to and from work in Alpharetta or even Gwinnett.
On Feb. 26 the city held its final of three interactive public information meeting with neighborhood residents. Now city staff will take the input from them and try to turn it into a concept design for the entire road from Wills Road to Houze Road.
Rucker Road has been on Alpharetta and Fulton County's plans for years. With new cities and annexations Fulton no longer has an involvement in North Fulton roads. But parts of the road are in Roswell. The local governments were always waiting on state funding for improvements. And then the road was designated for TSPLOST funding – but voters rejected TSPLOST.
Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said City Council told staff it was time to "fish or cut bait." [Most] of the road is in Alpharetta, so the city will make plans and find ways to fund the improvements.
Residents have identified several problems with the Rucker Road corridor that have been repeated at each of the three meetings:
- Excessive speed of traffic
- Lack of left turn lanes
- Motorists make dangerous passes on the right side in deceleration (right turn) lanes at subdivisions
- Sidewalks do not connect, forcing pedestrians to cross bridges in the street
- Lack of sidewalks and bike lanes prevents residents from walking or biking to stores or schools
- Motorists are unable to turn left or right out of subdivisions because of heavy traffic
One resident said her daughter, who is now learning how to drive, is scared to pull out of their subdivision onto Rucker Road. Her children can't walk home from school, or over to Scoops on Crabapple or Vintage Pizzeria on Broadwell because there's no sidewalk at a bridge along the way.
While a concept plan will be designed, adjusted and adopted by City Council, it won't get built all at once. Funding will have to be found, so the project will be built in phases.
Councilman Jim Gilvin told the local residents that City Council realized through complaints and talking with people who live in that area that Rucker Road needs sidewalks and has bridges and intersections that are unacceptable. Those stretch over the length of the corridor.
"So as a city, we can piecemeal, go in and do an intersection here, a bridge here, a sidewalk here," Gilvin said. "Or we can come to you, and say 'Guys, what do you want? What's your vision of this area?' And let's come up with a concept that we can work toward. Implement it as an overall strategy for the whole corridor."
Drinkard told residents, "Traffic is like water. Most of us learned… that water follows the path of least resistance. So does traffic. We all do it. What's the easiest way to go? That's the way I'm going to go."
"As we start looking at the projects we are going to design, we have to look at what other communities are doing," he said.
Both Milton and Roswell have some projects that will have affect the future of Rucker Road as well, he said.
Engineering and Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz said both neighboring cities are working on what Rucker Road residents don't want – roundabouts. Roswell has a roundabout planned at the intersection of Houze Road (GA 140) and Hembree Road. Construction is anticipated in two years or sooner.
"And what that does is keep the traffic moving," he said.
Once that starts construction, motorists might choose to use one of the next intersections to travel down, which could be Rucker Road or Crabapple Road.
The intersection of Crabapple Chase Drive and GA 372 is proposed to be a roundabout by Milton, and is designed to bypass the intersection in the Crabapple Crossroads area.
Community Development Director Richard McLeod, who previously worked for the city of Woodstock and still commutes form Cherokee County, told the residents what the city has no control over is what happens outside of its borders. Cherokee County and Woodstock are growing at a rapid pace.
"New housing permits have tripled over the last two years" in Woodstock, he said. "That means more cars. For good or bad, Alpharetta is a great employment center. It also means there's a lot of people coming here to work."