Astra Group Improves Public Safety With Atlanta’s Northside Drive Project
In a tight urban corridor in Atlanta’s booming Buckhead area, Astra Group is putting in large water lines and removing the existing reversible lanes.
“The project is being built to remove to improve safety along the heavily travelled corridor and to replace outdated waterlines,” says Annalysce Baker, Communications Officer with the Georgia Department of Transportation in Chamblee.
The Northside Drive project entails removing the existing reversible lane from the Interstate 75 interchange to Collier Road and creating an additional southbound lane, Baker explains. A two-way left turn lane will replace the reversible lane from Collier Road to the end of the project limits. Signal upgrades and intersection improvements will take place at the Collier Road, Woodward Way, Peachtree Battle Avenue, West Wesley and Arden Road intersections. The project also will include a new covered boardwalk to a tennis center.
Astra Group of Woodstock, Georgia, serves as the prime contractor and began the $25 million project in January 2014. Most of the work has taken place during weekday hours to reduce disruption of to residents living in the area. But that meant lane closures.
“This was a complicated infrastructure project,” says Andrew Lindsay, President of Astra Group. “It’s in an extremely tight urban traffic corridor.”
Replacing the Water Line
A major portion of the work entails waterline replacements for the city of Atlanta, including replacing a 20-inch diameter transmission main water line with a 36-inch diameter ductal iron pipe. It also adds a 12-inch distribution water main. Atlanta is funding the water line portion of the project.
“With the growth of the Buckhead area of Atlanta, with all of the towers going up, high density and urban environments, there needed to be a greater volume of water,” Lindsay says.
The water line work was combined with needed road work to minimize disruption to the traveling public.
Astra Group found a massive amount of utilities in the 3-mile long corridor, many unexpected.
“We worked together with Georgia DOT and the city of Atlanta on a solution, which ultimately was moving the 36-inch water main to the opposite side of the road,” Lindsay recalls. “We were proud we were part of the solution and not part of the problem. We came together as a team.”
The team discussed multiple alternatives, including making the road one way for a year, and determined moving the main was the best option. The main moved from west to east for most of the 3-mile project to avoid communication utilities.
Installing the line required trenching with Komatsu 308 excavators, which have a zero tail swing. Everything is contained within the tracks, so the back of the machine does not swing into traffic, Lindsay explains.
“If it wasn’t such tight quarters, we would be using larger machines,” he says.
Crews also ran into rock, which required blasting. Lindsay credits developing a good plan with allowing the company to complete the water line work in 12 months, rather than the allotted 18 months.
At some of the intersections, crews bored under the road to avoid disrupting traffic.
Astra Group also is improving the storm drainage in the corridor, installing reinforced concrete pipe, and adding fire hydrants.
Removing the Reversal Lanes
The department decided to eliminate the reversible lanes and create a left-turn lane, which can be used by both north and southbound traffic. There is only space for the three lanes. Widening the road was not an option. The DOT needed to improve the intersections, signalization, repave with asphalt, put in curbs and deal with stormwater issues, so water drained off the road. Astra Group will restripe it to make it clear they are turn lanes.
Crews removed all signage for the reversible lanes at the start of the job, to help drivers become aware that the reversible lanes no longer exist.
Astra Group has installed 14,000 linear feet of granite curb and has dropped in curb inlets to create American Disabilities Act-complaint wheelchair ramps. Sidewalks have been extended to Peachtree Creek. Because the project runs along the side of a golf course, the company has installed netting to catch any stray balls and an elevated boardwalk with a 10-foot path.
“There are a number of different elements,” Lindsay says.
The project is more than 80 percent complete and remains on time for a fall 2017 finish.
“This is a unique infrastructure improvement in an urban area and that’s what we are known for,” Lindsay says.
Lindsay and his father, Ian Lindsay, formed Astra Group in 1994. The family business employs more than 100 people. The company provides general contracting services to governments throughout the southeast. It specializes in infrastructure, athletic facilities, parks and municipal buildings. Astra Grading and Pipe does site development, grading and installing water, sewer and storm pipe.
The 5-mile Northside Drive Corridor Improvement Study, from Interstate 20 to Interstate 75 is currently in the planning and study phase by GDOT. Northside Drive is used to move freight and commuters. Traffic volume has increased as the area has embraced higher density projects.
GDOT wants to improve traffic flow and create a safer environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, support redevelopment in the area and preserve the community’s character. Potential improvements could include a combination of reconstructed intersections, upgraded sidewalks and bicycle facilities, and additional lanes in certain areas to help with traffic flow.
The department has held multiple Citizen Advisory Committee meetings with representatives from the businesses, communities and public agencies along the corridor. GDOT also has completed an environmental assessment and traffic and safety analysis. The traffic analysis found that incidents along the corridor increased by 52 percent in the past two years. It plans to make final recommendations this fall.