Lee says there are 14 different access points to and from the stadium site whether it’s Interstate 75 from the north, Cobb Parkway from the South, Windy Hill Road from the east or Interstate 285 from the west.
“You’ve got excellent access plus you have additional investment to make it even better,” Lee said.
The argument that it’s a congested area, Lee said, comes from the rush-hour traffic primarily around the Windy Hill Road interchange.
“We know that, and we’ve got plans to address that, so that might be leading folks to think that it’s congested, and I just think that folks don’t drive around there a lot, they’re not familiar with the area, they’re not aware of just how easily it is to get around from point to point and in and out of that area, compared to just a few years ago,” Lee said.
The Windy Hill “diverging diamond” interchange, scheduled to open in early 2017 at a cost of $20 million, will redirect traffic entering and exiting the interstate on a path that eliminates the need for stopping at a traffic signal.
The county is also expanding Windy Hill Road from five to six lanes from Cobb Parkway to the county’s diverging diamond project, and then from the diamond to Spectrum Circle. From Spectrum Circle to Powers Ferry Road, Cobb is adding a west-bound, free-flow lane from Powers Ferry Road southbound toward I-75. The $18.6 million project is also projected to open in early 2017.
“It has so many different access points for vehicles,” Lee said of the 60-acre site the Braves have chosen.
“It’s going to be extraordinarily pedestrian friendly, so if you work in the area you’ll be able to just walk into the area and be part of the experience, and there is an incredible amount of existing Cobb County Transit and bus access from downtown that already exists that’s usually accessible as well,” he said.
Cobb County Transit has five bus routes that serve the Cumberland area.
“And then you add the tram, the circulator, to that conversation, and you really have a comprehensive transportation plan that we think is a good start, and over the next two to three years as we get ready for the opening we’ll be able to make additional improvements as are identified to make it easier for folks to get around,” Lee said.
The chairman envisions a parking system similar to Disney World, where Braves’ fans could leave their cars parked around the Cumberland area, whether it’s at their office building or the Cumberland Mall, and hop on a tram that would take them right up to the stadium.
“The goal right now is to make it free of charge,” Lee said. “Obviously advertisers are going to want to be a part of that so that will help defray some of the cost and getting grants and stuff like that.”
Ott weighs in on transportation issues
Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, is a fan of the tram concept.
“Anybody that’s been to Disney knows that once you park your car you take the tram, and everything works a whole lot better than all the folks driving around,” Ott said. “I think the idea of a circulator tram is great because it allows you to use existing parking.”
Ott said the Braves have four 1 p.m. games a year.
“So the concerns people have about that causing a problem, there’s only four of them, so if you can keep people’s cars parked where they are and circulate around that’s a huge positive,” he said.
Lee and Ott say another way of enhancing the area’s accessibility are the tolled, reversible lanes being added along Interstates 75 and 575 through Cobb and Cherokee counties. The project is scheduled to open in 2018 at a cost of $951 million.
“I think anytime you can do a road project that’s going to improve the flow of traffic then you’re going to get the people through the area quicker and you’re going to help the congestion that is there now,” Ott said.