Alpharetta can do something about the appearance of the Rucker Road corridor, narrow lanes to slow traffic, add sidewalks and improve intersections, but what the city can't do is to reduce the traffic.
"We can't make the traffic go away. I wish we could. It's not going to happen," said Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard, during the city's unveiling of a draft plan for Rucker Road. "Even if we stopped all growth in Alpharetta, which is not going to happen, Cherokee County is growing like crazy. And they're not going to stop."
He said the neighboring county has a lot of growth potential but not a lot of jobs. The work is in Alpharetta and in Gwinnett County. And Cherokee County as plans to widen sections of GA 140.
Residents in neighborhoods along Rucker Road let the city know they wanted a two-lane road in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood. The road needs to present a rural, residential feel and must have sidewalks connecting the length of the corridor. By making it lined with trees in a 6-foot wide strip to separate pedestrian from vehicle traffic, hopes are that motorists will slow. The lanes will be narrowed to 10 feet wide.
"By narrowing those lanes it give people the feel that they need to slow down," Drinkard said.
Gone would be the deceleration right turn lanes that many motorists illegally use as passing lanes.
From Charlotte Drive to Wills Road, the city plans to add 4-foot wide bike lanes.
"All of this can be achieved with a minimum of additional right of way," Drinkard said.
Most of the extra right of way needed would be for the Broadwell Road intersection and the intersection alignment needed at Fairfax and Northfield subdivisions.
Residents asked why couldn't the city add a traffic signal at Charlotte Drive? Pete Sewczwicz, Alpharetta's director of Engineering and Public Works, said if the city installs a traffic signal that did not meet federal standards for traffic, the city would be 100 percent liable.
"If we do that and there is a crash out there, then the city is liable for it," Drinkard said.
So far staff has put $500,000 in the fiscal year 2014 budget that City Council will adopt in June, with the budget going into effect July 1. Sewczwicz estimates the construction cost to be between $8 million and $10 million. Better numbers can be provided once the design concept is turned into engineering plans. He expects it to take five years to complete the entire project once engineering plans are completed.
Eric Regan, president of Greenmont Owners Association, said he didn't see how the design helps residents get in and out of their neighborhoods, especially to make left turns onto Rucker Road.
Drinkard said by getting rid of deceleration lanes and slowing traffic down, there should be more breaks in traffic to allow opportunities to slip out into traffic. Some areas don't have medians, so there might be a center turn lane that can be used to pause for breaks in traffic.
Sewczwicz said those subdivision intersections might be able to use two-way left turn lanes, or "suicide lanes" as some call them since traffic can enter them from either direction to make a turn.
"It's a suicide lane right now but we don't have a center lane," Regan said.
Timing the traffic signals is difficult over the long distances between lights. The Engineering director said the biggest culprits that ruin the effectiveness of timing lights are speeders.
Drinkard's answer to some of that problem was enforcement.
"One of the things that we've got to do is move our enforcement from in font of Wills Park, and move it further west on Rucker," he said. Motorists know speed limits are enforced near Wills Park, so they slow down when they reach Wills Road when driving east.