Improvements to 141/Medlock Bridge Road that Preserve Johns Creek

The 141 (Medlock Bridge Rd) Corridor is a fundamental feature of Johns Creek. It defines the heart of our city. The City Council is expected to vote at its next meeting on Feb. 27 whether or not to widen this road to three lanes in both directions. The changes that we make to this corridor will have significant impacts not just on travel and convenience, but also on the look and feel and quality of life of our city far into the future. Much more research needs to be done and facts need to be shared before rushing headlong towards any option that we may soon regret.

Through critical thinking and analysis, Johns Creek can improve travel time and convenience while also maintaining the traditional character of our city’s main thoroughfare. We must be clear in our goal. Is the goal to make this route a highway for getting to 285 easier? Or is the goal to optimize the road in such a way that it helps Johns Creek residents without destroying the traditional character of our community?

Before any solution can be judged, the problem that is being solved must be defined first. The problem is not as simple as stating that we have too much traffic on 141. The problem is that we are not moving that traffic as efficiently as possible through the main corridor. A false definition of the problem can lead to a “solution” that does not solve the real problem, and while we may be able to pave our way to a solution, that is an option that might not be right for the residents of Johns Creek.

Drivers along the 141 corridor are more likely than not to get a red light repeatedly along the 141 corridor. In fact, the probability is 55% (or higher if there is traffic congestion) that while traveling south on 141 you will be stopped at State Bridge Road for a red light. This is a large part of the problem while driving 141.

The probability of catching two lights green in a row is 20%
(even without traffic congestion).

The 141 corridor needs to have green lights as a % of the traffic light cycle for both north and southbound traffic greater than 50%, especially at the normal chokepoints for traffic we see daily, and especially during rush hours if we expect to keep the traffic moving.

Additionally, the intersection of 141 and State Bridge has more vehicles arriving at the light each hour than can proceed through the light on green. This creates a backup in the queue of vehicles which can extend a mile or more on given days. Because this queue crosses several intersections, a ripple effect is created and additional problems get created at those locations.

The addition of a third lane southbound through the 141/State Bridge intersection will shorten or elimiate the length of the queue substantially and will reduce the likelihood of congestion related issues at other intersections.

The problems encountered at 141 and Grove Point Road are a result of the length of the backup queue created by issues at State Bridge Road and 141.

The issues we are addressing are the primary reasons for our traffic congestion issues, and while other issues may contribute, it is important to focus on the most important issues.

Our elected officials must protect the city of Johns Creek first and foremost. We need leadership that seeks alternative strategies for transportation that also maintain our residential community. The widening of 141 to six lanes raises legitimate questions about our future. Think about it: Peachtree Industrial is a six lane highway. Will a six-lane highway be the forerunner to a mass transit rail line or to dedicated MARTA bus lanes? Will increased road capacity be the excuse to allow more high-density housing in Johns Creek?

With both the Comprehensive Transportation Plan and a joint study with Peachtree Corners of the 141 corridor due in September, it is premature to move one step towards widening 141. It must be noted that Peachtree Corners does not have any plans to widen their part of 141 nor does GDOT have plans to do so at this time. Therefore, any widening in Johns Creek would not pay off like some might expect. Also, a wider 141 will require additional red lights to help people get out of their subdivisions safely. These additional lights will also erode gains made by increasing road capacity.

Additionally GDOT data that is available to the public does not support the statements that we have an ever growing volume of traffic in this corridor. The annual rate of growth between 2001-2015 on 141 just south of AAC for instance, shows a decrease in traffic volumes of -0.7% between 2001 and 2015.

Not only are significant studies still in process but the future of McGinnis Ferry Road (MGF) is still being debated. Each morning, commuters weigh which route to take to work. Widening 141 will probably increase the number of drivers choosing 141 over GA400, which may worsen the problem. A widening of MGF added to the new multi-million dollar McFarland Interchange may lead many Forsyth and upper Johns Creek commuters to use GA400 and Peachtree Industrial Blvd (PIB). These roads were designed as highways and do not run through a residential area.

There are several other changes that should be investigated to improve our current traffic volume in Johns Creek on 141 that do not involve widening the road:
· Adjust speed limits
· Increase turn lanes at key intersections for easier access to GA400 and PIB
· Intersection and lane improvements in Forsyth and Gwinnett County.
These are all things that can be done to decrease the incentive to use Johns Creek as a cut-through. Already, South Forsyth has taken away much of the incentive to drive into Johns Creek simply by making itself a new destination in its own right full of shops, offices and restaurants.

Changes to speed limits, increasing turn lanes at key intersections for easier access to GA400 and PIB, and intersection and lane improvements in Forsyth are all.

Intersection improvements up and down 141 will better serve the travel needs of Johns Creek residents. These improvements will improve commutes, but also ease the ability to live, shop, and play inside our city. By widening the intersection at 141/State Bridge, we can get big benefits without the unnecessary damage to the neighborhoods just slightly north. Improving the intersection at 141 and State Bridge is long overdue. However, Johns Creek should delay any decision on widening 141 beyond the intersection. Careful consideration should be given to other ideas that can improve travel but not harm our community.

There is relatively little expense to intersection improvements compared to widening the road. We have already seen these ideas implemented on State Bridge Road east of 141.These intersection improvements can give significant travel gains along the corridor. Most if not all of the intersection improvements would be near commercial development and not residential developments. If we widen 141, we can never undo that and the intersection problems will still need to be addressed. If we make these intersection improvements, there is little to no downside and the widening of 141 could always be done in the future if truly warranted and it was desired by the residents.. These intersection improvements can be done without doing irreparable harm to the look and feel and quality of life of Johns Creek.

It seems clear that there are real improvements based on real world observations and data that will greatly benefit Johns Creek drivers. More efficient intersections throughout the corridor as measured by more lights green more of the time for North and Southbound traffic is preferred over the creation of a six lane highway bordered by residential homes. Widening 141 is an unnecessary step that will have a lasting negative impact. It is a step that once taken, will be irreversible and have costs much greater than just the dollars spent on construction.

Source: Preserve Johns Creek

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