Sandtown Community Association


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Campbellton Road Widening

    The following sections cover a history of the Georgia DOT's plans to widen Campbellton Road (SR 166/154) into a large arterial highway through a conventional widening strategy, how the Sandtown and Ben Hill Communities responded, and the eventual creation of a traffic calming plan for Campbellton Road. This widening effort was the motivation for the Blueprint Sandtown Project.       


In 1997, the Department of Transportation announced a plan to widen Campbellton Road (State Route 166/154) into a four-lane road with a 20-foot median.  The six mile expansion, running through the Ben Hill and Sandtown communities, would be undertaken in three phases: Barge to Enon Road, Enon to Wallace and Wallace to Fulton Industrial.  The public hearing to announce the widening was held at A. Philip Randolph Elementary School in November 1997.  The DOT provided the community a 3-hour notification rather than the usual 3-week notice; with such short notice, only about 30 members of the community attended.

Until the DOT’s announcement of the road widening, most community residents had not thought much about Campbellton Road except to know that it was a road in terrible shape and desperately in need of improvement.  Trucks were already a problem.  Residents feared the design’s impact would increase truck traffic and cause collateral damage in this community.    Yet, in spite of the decay along Campbellton Road, intuitively, the community also knew the DOT proposal would destroy the quality of life for persons living in the community, especially anyone whose home bordered Campbellton either from the back or front yards.

As community residents raised their concerns, the DOT continued in the affirmation that Campbellton Road as an arterial state highway required four lanes with 20 foot median design to manage the community’s growth.  The assertion was based on the principle that there is a standard safety design for every state highway.  The trouble with the DOT assertion “of one size fits all” is that there are several major state highways in Atlanta that do not have the four lanes with 20-foot median design.

Northside Drive and Moreland Avenue were the most obvious examples since neither of these arterial highways have four lanes with a 20 foot median.  Northside Drive has four lanes running through the minority community; however, as Northside goes into the residential Buckhead Community, the lanes are reduced to three.  Moreland has four lanes in the minority community but as Moreland turns into Briarcliff in the Emory University neighborhood the road becomes two lanes and tamer.  Clearly, there were some DOT exceptions.  Unfortunately, those exceptions meant nothing to the DOT’s plan to forge ahead.

Realizing the giant bureaucracy the DOT represented, the Sandtown Community Association and the Ben Hill Neighbor Precinct Unit-P (NPU-P) combined their efforts to form the Campbellton Road Coalition (CRC).  CRC did not want to stop progress; CRC wanted the community to be a part of shaping the progress.  CRC’s mission would be to engage the two communities in efforts to find design alternatives that would provide safety and traffic movement along Campbellton Road, yet, not allow the community to become bifurcated and destroyed with such a monstrous design. 

 At CRC’s request, the Georgia DOT returned a year later.  With the proper community notification, more than 250 persons attended the public hearing to express concerns about the design. Over the course of three years, the community and DOT would meet more than 30 times either in workshops, small meetings, legislative sessions or community meetings. 

 The initial meetings with top DOT officials proved fruitless.  Then DOT Director Shakleford indicated the widening project was not about Sandtown or Ben Hill ----Campbellton Road’s purpose was to get people from Douglass County into city limits of Atlanta.  The new homes, schools, and churches along Campbellton essentially did not matter to the widening plan.   CRC responded that we would not let the DOT or anyone present a plan that would diminish, destroy and cause disinvestments in our communities. 

A fundamental tenet for CRC was that stopping the widening without fundamental safety improvements and beautification of Campbellton Road would be an empty victory.  Thus, began three years of intense work to educate ourselves on design alternatives and obtain community buy-in on the possibilities for Campbellton Road with the right road design.

Campbellton Road Preliminary Study:

On July 17, 2000, CRC hosted a community workshop with funding provided through Southwest Revitalization and the Georgia Sierra Club.  The featured speaker was international traffic engineer Ian Lockwood. Lockwood’s credentials were perfect for helping with Campbellton Road. He was successfully working with a Virginia community on “traffic calming” a state highway. (Route 50 Coalition).  Additionally, he had been successful in redesigning the streets and state highways in West Palm Beach where he worked as a transportation planner. 

In anticipation of Lockwood’s presentation, fliers with the title “A New Design for Campbellton Road” were sent throughout the community.  More than 300 persons (residents, Fulton County Planning and Public Works staff) attended the workshop at Sandtown Baptist.  Lockwood was an overwhelming success.  He introduced the community to “traffic calming”.  “Traffic calming” refers to roads designed in such a manner that the design of the road dictates the speed; yet, traffic is allowed to move slowly but freely.  He showed how traffic calming could create a myriad of possibilities for the community.

More importantly, Lockwood gave independent affirmation that our cause was just.  Communities throughout the Country and Georgia were insisting on community friendly designs.  We had the right to insist on one as well.

            UNFORTUNATELY, LOCKWOOD gave the community no final design.  Lockwood argued imposing his design on Campbellton Road would be no better than the DOT.  He emphasized that a community design had to evolve that would include the community’s vision for land use; the road design would then fit the land use the community determined.  He suggested that we create villages (Ben Hill, County Line, Boat Rock/Campbellton) along Campbellton, which would provide retail and housing.   Eventually, retail would be added to Camp Creek but the major emphasis to slowing Campbellton Road would be the villages.  

These villages would add value to the community. He further observed that as long as the Campbellton Road was a state road, the Georgia DOT would allow the trucks.  The community needed to create an atmosphere within the villages so that the “trucks would act differently” when coming through.  With a quality village, the DOT would think twice before destroying it to widen a road.  Our challenge as a community would be to find funding to bring in the professionals who could create that vision. 

Campbellton Road Corridor Study:

             In the fall of 1999, the Sandtown Community received $40,000 in funding through Southwest Revitalization, a community economic investment organization. Southwest Revitalization received its funding from the Fulton Board of Commissioners.  Reggie Tatum and Jewel Johnson were instrumental in discovering the funding source.   Eventually $15,000 was added from the Atlanta City Government to complete the design for Ben Hill (Barge to County Line).

Bill de St. Aubin of the Sizemore Group and Walter Kulash of Glatting-Jackson of Orlando were chosen to help the community develop the alternative design for Campbellton Road.  The Sizemore Group had a strong reputation for land use planning, urban planning and creating communities; Glatting Jackson was nationally known for transportation planning. 

Six months following the initial Lockwood presentation, the months of planning culminated in workshops at Sandtown Baptist Church.  More than 600 residents participated in either the questionnaire or day/evening workshops.  For that evening, the turnout was tremendous.  In attendance were County Commissioners, Atlanta City Council members, Atlanta and Fulton County staff members and reluctant DOT officials.  The Sizemore Group presented character preference pictures, which the community rated.  These ratings would later be summarized in a community land use vision.

Two months later, the Sizemore Team presented the results of the community’s preferences.  The community had endorsed the following land use objectives:

  • Better school options (middle and high school)
  • Walkable community
  • Recreation facilities (YMCA or public recreation centers),
  • Shopping opportunities
  • Reduced truck traffic. 
  • Standards for the manner in which buildings and roads should be designed.

           Walter Kulash of Glatting Jackson translated these options into a general plan for Campbellton Road.  By accessing DOT’s information, he was able to determine that the predictions of overcrowding for Campbellton Road (Sandtown sections) were based on data on the heaviest traveled parts of Campbellton ( Fulton Industrial and Douglas County) where nearly 20,000 cars traveled daily.  Most of these cars drop off at Fulton Industrial.  The Sandtown segments approximated 9-10,000 cars daily.  Thus, the moment Campbellton is widened, the car increase would be nearly 15-20,000 cars and trucks.   With the Sizemore and Glatting Jackson summaries, the community had a broad plan, which was reflected in the Campbellton Road Corridor Study.

The Campbellton Road Corridor Study was presented to the Georgia DOT.   After a series of lengthy communications, the Georgia DOT withdrew plans to widen the road.  The Campbellton Road Coalition had fulfilled their goal of stopping the widening, but the goal of implementing an alternative still had not been achieved. The DOT was prepared to “wait” us out.

 In stopping the Campbellton Road expansion, CRC joined the ranks of only one other Georgia community that had successfully stopped a road widening.  Furthermore, Sandtown and Ben Hill became the first Georgia communities to propose a traffic-calming plan for a state highway.