By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A $3.5 million plan to upgrade traffic signals along Ga. 9 could spell relief for thousands of drivers frustrated by sluggish stop-and-go commutes through north Fulton County.
Traffic engineers in Alpharetta, Roswell and Sandy Springs won't promise the moon, but they say the plan, set to begin early next year, could cut travel times and provide a more reliable commute along the route, which parallels the heavily traveled Ga. 400.
The project calls for signals fed by a series of roadway sensors that can adjust their timing immediately to accommodate high-volume traffic. Construction is fully funded through the Federal Highway Administration and is being administered through the Georgia DOT. The cities paid a total of $500,000 in design costs, each responsible for the share of road in their jurisdiction.
"I think this is a very good system," said Alpharetta resident Don Nahser who drives Ga. 9 frequently. "Economically speaking, it's a great advantage because it saves gas and time. It should work fine if drivers obey the speed limits."
Many of the signals along the 18-mile stretch from the Forsyth County line south to Abernathy Road in Sandy Springs are already connected on a timing system to help coordinate traffic flow, said Eric Graves, city traffic engineer for Alpharetta.
"This project is going to take care of some of the gaps in that system ," Graves said. New sensors will then be able to feed traffic information instantly to the system and allow heavier volumes more time through signals, he said.
In addition to the timing sensors, the project will also include:
-- Additional closed circuit television cameras for traffic flow monitoring and incidence response
-- Permanent traffic count stations to help study patterns and understand overall growth and seasonal variations
-- Driver information systems to update drivers about the status of the corridor
Alpharetta averages about 21,000 vehicles a day on its portion of Ga. 9, but traffic really picks up in Roswell and Sandy Springs, where the daily number climbs to more than 45,000 in spots.
Roswell Transportation Director Steve Acenbrak said motorists will not only benefit with state-of-the-art adaptive signal timing, but will also see improved response to traffic incidents.
Sandy Springs is the coordinating agency for the project and will deal directly with the Georgia DOT as work begins sometime in early 2012. The project has a 16-month construction schedule.
"This is a very legitimate effort to develop a regional traffic system, one that crosses borders," said Bill Andrews who operates Sandy Springs' traffic control center.
Motorists will see the biggest improvement in travel times during off-peak driving hours, Andrews said, when the signals can adjust to accommodate the flow of traffic.
"You're still going to have a peak hour, and it's still going to be heavy at peak hour, but it will get flushed out faster," Andrews said.