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State may fast-track fix of I-85-Hwy. 74 interchange

Help may be on the way for commuters snarled between Tyrone and interstate

Fayette County Commission Chairman Steve Brown has joined forces with his cohorts in Fulton and Coweta counties to plead the case for a larger-scope improvement to the interchange of Ga. Highway 74 and Interstate 85 in the form of a “partial cloverleaf” design.

If the local governments can agree on that design, it is possible construction could be fast-tracked to next year if not 2015, according to DOT area construction engineer Lenicia Rogers. The local governments have also been asked to see how much money they may be willing to provide for the project, Rogers added.

The partial cloverleaf, at an expected cost of $22.5 million, was on a list to be funded by a regional transportation sales tax that failed at the polls this summer. Despite that lack of funding, DOT is willing to proceed with the project at one of the major southside traffic jams for commuters, particularly in the mornings.

One traffic model of the new interchange shows it would reduce traffic congestion by 64 percent.

In a press release, officials note that morning traffic is particularly harsh in the area of the interchange as commuters have to sit through multiple signal cycles before getting on the interstate, as “significant freight traffic” plays a role.

The interchange also has 1.6 times the nationwide average for auto crashes, and the new design would provide safety improvements by eliminating left turns.

Helping make the case that the partial cloverleaf is good for business is the proximity to the Oakley Industrial Boulevard, the 24-hour intermodal terminal operated by CSX and the Southpark Industrial Park, all in Fulton County.

The data on commuters is significant as well, as traffic on Hwy. 74 south of the interchange, between the areas of Peachtree City, Tyrone and east Coweta County reached 43,800 vehicles per day in 2011 compared to the 17,800 vehicles per day to the north in Fulton County, Fairburn and Palmetto.

John Eaves and Bob Blackburn, who are respectively the county commission chairs in Fulton and Coweta counties, are joining Brown in calling for the partial cloverleaf design. Both chairmen cited the impacts such an improvement would have on businesses.

“One of the best transportation investments we can make in our people and our business is the congestion and safety improvements at the I-85 and state route 74 interchange,” Eaves said.

“Improving access for our citizens and our businesses makes a stronger economic engine for our counties, our region and for Georgia,” Blackburn said.

Eaves said he felt the project is “of great regional significance and I am proud to be working collaboratively with our neighbors.”

Brown pointed to the cooperation between the various jurisdictions on the project.

“The solidarity with three counties in agreement, Republicans and Democrats in agreement, local officials and state legislators is an extraordinary example of south metro Atlanta determining that our futures are inextricably linked,” Brown said.

The one catch for the partial cloverleaf project is that new bridges will need to be built across the interstate, which will extend the length of time necessary to complete the project, DOT officials have said previously.

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