Mammoth Ga. 400/I-285 interchange overhaul to include PATH trail


The state’s pending solution to notorious Ga. 400/I-285 interchange traffic is stubbornly car-centric and MARTA-free, a Spaghetti Junction II stack of flyover ramps. But in a literally trailblazing nod to alternative transportation, the Georgia Department of Transportation is adding a PATH multi-use trail to the mega-freeway.

Lobbied for by bike advocates and the City of Sandy Springs, among others, the bike-and-pedestrian trail eventually will connect to Buckhead’s new PATH400 trail, and to a rapidly growing network of OTP bike lanes and trails.

“GDOT has taken a giant step to help us connect the region on a human scale by constructing PATH400 through this complex interchange,” says PATH Foundation Executive Director Ed McBrayer in an email to CL. “We hope this is an indication GDOT recognizes the need to better accommodate non-motorized travel modes in all future projects.”

The billion-dollar 400/285 rebuild is slated to start next year and open in 2020. In the original plans, circulated last year, bikes were not on GDOT’s agenda.

Joe Seconder, vice president of Georgia Bikes and founder of Bike Walk Dunwoody, tells CL he suggested some bike amenities at a November GDOT meeting.

“They just kind of gave us the blow-off, and said ‘It’s a car project,’” he recalls.

Undeterred, Seconder began building a coalition of activists and pro-bike local government and business groups. In private talks, GDOT was swayed.

The plan calls for a roughly 1,500-foot multi-use path running along the southeastern quadrant of the interchange, behind Northside Hospital-Atlanta, between Johnson Ferry Road and I-285. The Sandy Springs City Council recently agreed to chip in $1 million for the trail, with GDOT and PATH picking up the remaining $4 million to $5 million.

To the south, the trail can connect with the PATH400, being built in phases along the 400 corridor. To the north, the trail makes its way through the nasty interchange via the Peachtree Dunwoody Road underpass. The Perimeter Center Improvement Districts already have a plan to widen that underpass and add bike lanes.

The Perimeter CIDs also have a plan, slated about a year from now, to add a two-way cycle track on Peachtree Dunwoody Road. From there, bicyclists could plug into the network of lanes and trails — and, Seconder says, the GDOT trail could even push some of those to happen sooner. And there’s hope that GDOT can be pressed to add similar trails at other interchanges.

While the OTP suburbs still often lack sidewalks, the improvements are steady. Dunwoody already has 10 miles of bike lanes, Seconder says, and east-west connector trails to Sandy Springs are already on the planning boards.

“I think you come back here in 10 years, you blink” in surprise at the pro-bike changes, he says.

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