- Fulton County Schools
GDOT Updates on the Widening of I-285 and SR 400
Administrative staff from Fulton County Schools attended the Public Information Open House meetings hosted in January by the Georgia Department of Transportation. GDOT presented displays of the entire I-285 Top End Express Lanes project as well as a video depicting how the highway, including the elevated lanes, will look once completed in 2032. The road widening that is part of this project impacts Riverwood High School, Heards Ferry Elementary School and the school district’s administrative building on Powers Ferry Road.
The meetings provided the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, ask questions, and most importantly, provide feedback to GDOT. GDOT plans to use this information toward developing a final design so that construction can begin in 2026. Those who couldn't attend the meetings should view information on the project’s website or provide comments here before February 25, 2020.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized Fulton County Schools as a “Participating Agency” in the I-285 Top End Express Lanes project. This is a national recognition by the federal government that requires GDOT to involve FCS by giving the school system opportunities to review some project plans and share feedback. The Express Lanes project impacts more than 2,600 families in the Riverwood High School and Heards Ferry Elementary School zones and close to 800 Fulton County Schools employees at those schools and the FCS Administrative Center on Powers Ferry Road.
As a proactive measure, the Fulton County School Board requested “Participating Agency” status so that it can stay informed on all project plans and updates as well as provide its expertise. With school buses and other district vehicles traveling through the Sandy Springs area daily, Fulton County Schools has specific knowledge of traffic patterns in the project area. In addition, the school district has unique experience in the design, planning, construction, and school safety and security requirements for its buildings, and entire campuses, which in the I-285 area include Riverwood, Heards Ferry and the FCS central office.
Without its direct involvement, FCS is concerned that decisions could be made that negatively impact the schools and central office. The final determinations still remain with GDOT, and ultimately the USDOT, but Fulton County Schools is pleased to have an avenue for providing input and concerns so that it can represent the safety interests of its students, staff and families.
As the community may be aware, the Georgia Department of Transportation has planned two separate, but similar, construction projects for Interstate 285 and Georgia 400 that affect Fulton County stakeholders. The “Transform I-285/SR 400” project includes improvements to the major interchange connecting the two roadways and is already under way, while the “Georgia 400 Express Lanes” project includes the construction of toll lanes and is planned to start in 2021. Many parents and community members have been following the progress of these projects, especially how they impact schools in the Sandy Springs area. Fulton County Schools has these updates to share as well as some good news.
Transform I-285/SR 400 Project
GDOT has begun installing reinforced concrete sound barriers between Woodland Elementary School and Georgia 400. This has been a desire for the Woodland community and the Fulton County School Board for many years and is a welcome mitigation to the noise generated by the highway. Weather permitting, it should take 9-12 months to remove the old metal barriers south of Woodland Elementary and install the new concrete sound barriers.
Georgia 400 Express Lanes Project
GDOT recently stated that it will make its roadway improvements on land it already owns rather than take school system property for the road widening. This is good news for Dunwoody Springs Elementary School and Woodland Elementary School; however, the highway’s proximity to the school buildings and playfields still remains a high and significant concern to Fulton County Schools. It’s important to note that this recent update is based on the information GDOT has released to the public as the agency has not shared any new plans for the school system to review. FCS leaders continue to have discussions with GDOT officials and are requesting mitigations to minimize impact to the schools.
I-285 Top End Express Lanes Project
GDOT announced it will hold Public Information Open House meetings about the I-285 Top End Express Lanes Project in January. The road widening that is part of this project impacts Riverwood High School, Heards Ferry Elementary School and the school district’s administrative building. The meeting details below are being shared now to help interested community members plan ahead, but the school system also will send a reminder after the winter break.
- Jan. 21, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Chamblee First United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Chamblee
- Jan. 23, noon - 2 p.m. and 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs
- Jan. 28, noon - 2 p.m. and 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 1978 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody
- Jan. 30, noon - 2 p.m. and 4:30 - 7:30 p.m., The Gallery at Cobb Galleria, 1 Galleria Parkway Southeast, Atlanta/Cobb County
The purpose for these meetings is to provide the public with opportunities to learn more about the project, ask questions, and most importantly, to provide feedback to the GDOT regarding the project. For your background, the Sandy Springs Reporter newspaper also published this recent article.
These are encouraging first steps in a long process to ensure the safety of Fulton schools as GDOT continues their construction projects along I-285 and Georgia 400. Superintendent Mike Looney, our School Board members, and other school system leaders have had significant concerns about safety and continuously have advocated for Fulton’s students, staff and community. More information will be shared as it becomes available.
As schools and the FCS administrative offices close for the winter break, please enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends. Second semester starts for students on Monday, January 6!
Fulton County Schools
Note: The following letter from Superintendent Mike Looney was sent to all FCS Parents and Community on Sept. 5, 2019.
Dear Parents & Community,
Recently the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has made more information available regarding their plans to expand Georgia Hwy 400 under the Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP).
The department has been open in discussing several possible options with Fulton County Schools (FCS) for the expansion and location of the new lanes relative to our schools and proximity to FCS property. The district has asked GDOT to consider moving the expansion to the West of the existing highway boundaries; however, we were notified they did not consider this a viable option.
Based on the information we have now, GDOT’s current plans give us great concern because of the potential risks to student, employee and visitor safety.
Not only will the new lanes have a physical impact to Woodland Elementary School and Dunwoody Springs Elementary School; the entire school district and all Fulton County taxpayers could be impacted if the high cost of mitigation due to the MMIP becomes the district’s sole responsibility.
Due to these facts, we felt it was important to take a stand that will go beyond today’s current situation and will become the school district’s stance as we consider future proposals and highway expansions.
Therefore, on August 22nd the Fulton County Board of Education took a formal position, in the form of a unanimous resolution, notifying GDOT of our opposition to any plan that negatively impacts school property. Please click here to see the resolution and letter from me to GDOT explaining our action.
Construction projects like this can take a long time and we are hopeful GDOT will take additional actions to reduce the risks and impact to FCS’s students and community. During this period, we ask that you engage and support our efforts to maintain the level of safety we currently have with our schools.
This can be best accomplished by contacting GDOT at 400ExpressLanes@dot.ga.gov or 404-556-9816 to let them know you oppose the current plans and impact to our schools.
If you have any questions about the FCS resolution please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Looney, Superintendent
Update on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP)
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) held meetings at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School and Riverwood High School on January 14th and 16th respectively to share information with our school community about the planned widening of SR 400 and Interstate 285 (information provided is available here). During these meetings, GDOT representatives collected comments and questions from our community.
Fulton County School System staff recently received a letter from GDOT that includes summaries of comments collected during the January meetings, GDOT’s responses, and reminders related to upcoming Public Information Open House (PIOH) meetings. This letter as well as a detailed matrix of questions gathered and responses provided is available using the hyperlinks below.
In addition, Fulton County School System staff attended the PIOH meetings held on February 28, 2019, March 5, 2019 and March 7, 2019. At these meetings, GDOT displayed updated concept plans illustrating revised right-of-way (land required) and proposed highway locations at Woodland ES, Dunwoody Springs ES, Sandy Springs MS and the new North Maintenance facility locations. A link to the information provided by GDOT is provided below.
GDOT School impact board.pdf
At the PIOH Meetings, GDOT shared a video depicting what the express lanes will look like when completed. Below is a YouTube link of the video displayed at PIOH meetings.
District staff has begun our own evaluation of the impacts based upon the revised concept plans provided by GDOT. More information will be shared about this and other next steps during the upcoming March meeting of the Board of Education.
Upcoming Public Information Open Houses: SR 400 Express Lanes
The Georgia Department of Transportation (Georgia DOT) will hold a series of Public Information Open Houses (PIOHs) concerning the proposed SR 400 Express Lanes (PI 0001757) in Fulton and Forsyth counties. The purpose is to provide the public with opportunities to learn more about the project, ask questions, and provide feedback.
The public is invited to attend the following meetings:
|2/28||11 a.m.- 2 p.m. & 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.||Hilton Garden Inn
|4025 Windward Plaza
|3/5||4:30 - 7:30 p.m.||Forsyth Conference Center||3410 Ronald Reagan Blvd
Cumming, GA 30041
|3/7||4:30 -7:30 p.m.||DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
Atlanta - Roswell
|1075 Holcomb Bridge Rd
Roswell, GA 30076
|3/12||4:30 - 7:30 p.m.||City Springs||1 Galambos Way
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
GDOT Meetings on the Widening of I-285 and SR 400 (Original Post)
The Georgia Department of Transportation recently held meetings at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School and Riverwood High School to share information with the school community about the planned widening of SR 400 and Interstate 285.
Information presented at the meeting is posted at http://www.dot.ga.gov/DS/GEL/SR400.
The GDOT projects are part of the agency's statewide "Major Mobility Investment Program" (MMIP), which includes construction of express lanes and interchange improvements along the two roadways. At these meetings, GDOT staff shared information about the projects, the project timeline, and future right-of-way acquisitions. They also discussed their “typical” express lane design that will be used throughout the future projects. Once the conceptual design has been completed, GDOT will hold additional meetings to review this design and its impact to certain Fulton schools and administrative buildings. The January meetings, which included a Q&A session at the end of the Riverwood HS meeting, were a continuation of the conversation between Fulton County Schools and GDOT.
GDOT first approached Fulton County Schools to introduce the MMIP program and presented very limited information which did not include specific details about the impact to district facilities. GDOT officials later requested an October 22nd meeting with District staff in which they provided conceptual information that did reveal potential impacts to the schools and administrative buildings. At its November 6th work session, district staff presented the information that was provided by GDOT (in October) about the potential impact to the following five schools and two administrative buildings (video of the FCS presentation can be found here during Superintendent Reports and the GDOT slide deck at this link):
- Dunwoody Springs Elementary School (SR 400, Sandy Springs) - View the Dunwoody Springs Map
- Woodland Elementary School (SR 400, Sandy Springs) - View the Woodland Map
- Sandy Springs Middle School (SR 400, Sandy Springs) - View the Sandy Springs Map
- New North Maintenance Facility (SR 400, Alpharetta) - View the North Maintenance Facility Map
- Riverwood High School (I-285, Sandy Springs) - View the Riverwood Map 1 | View the Riverwood Map 2
- Heards Ferry Elementary School (I-285, Sandy Springs) - View the Heards Ferry Map
- Administrative Center (I-285, Sandy Springs) - View the FCS Admin Center Map
Fulton County Schools has raised numerous concerns including the impact on student and staff safety, the proximity of the additional lanes to the schools, Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) requirements as well as the effects on playfields, noise levels, and exhaust fumes.
Since the November Board Meeting, GDOT has stated they appreciate the concerns raised by the Board and have made certain revisions to their plans to reduce the impact to these schools and buildings. GDOT has not provided those revised plans to Fulton County Schools.
The Board of Education and Fulton County Schools Staff are committed to continually monitoring these plans as they develop and providing critical feedback to GDOT to ensure the safety and security of students and staff, and
Resources related to this project: