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Commission votes 3-to-2 to leave West F’ville Bypass as is

UPDATED April 6 for online — A bid to fully fund construction of the East Fayetteville Bypass, at the expense of more than a dozen other transportation projects, fell flat on a 3-2 vote by the Fayette County Commission.

Commissioner Steve Brown has argued that the East Fayetteville Bypass was always considered to be the top priority for the entire county, while the West Fayetteville Bypass, now under construction, was chiefly for future development.

But Commissioner Robert Horgan said that since he was elected, he has “never heard” any talk of the East Fayetteville Bypass being the number-one priority for the entire county.

“I just don’t agree with saying the East Fayetteville Bypass is the number-one project,” Horgan said. “I never heard that until Steve was on the board.”

Brown referenced a 2004 memo that listed the East bypass as “priority #1” but Horgan noted that some of the other projects on that list have already been accomplished, such as the widening of Jimmie Mayfield Boulevard between Ga. Highway 92 and Hwy. 54 in Fayetteville.

Brown's motion to fully fund the East Fayetteville Bypass at the expense of other projects failed on a 3-2 vote, with Brown and Commissioner Allen McCarty in favor and Commissioners Horgan, Herb Frady and Lee Hearn against.

Brown also chided the county for doing a number of “smaller” transportation projects with the SPLOST instead of pursuing the high-dollar bypass instead.
“Critical SPLOST funds have been wasted on many low priority projects, not just the West Fayetteville Bypass,” Brown said.

Commissioner Lee Hearn took an exception to the allegation that SPLOST money was “wasted” by the county.

Hearn challenged Brown to bring back a list of projects that Brown feels the county “wasted or squandered money.”

“I’d like him to bring that list of projects where we wasted or squandered money,” Hearn said, noting that intersection improvements all over the county and projects such as the widening of Jimmie Mayfield have impacted a number of residents and motorists who travel through Fayette County.

The East Fayetteville Bypass has been criticized because it does not fully circumnavigate downtown Fayetteville since it does not reach Ga. Highways 92 and 85 south of the city. Instead, the bypass’s southern terminus is at the rural intersection of County Line, Inman and South Jeff Davis roads.

The West Fayetteville Bypass, in contrast, goes from Ga. Highway 85 south of Fayetteville at the southern end and reaches Ga. Highway 92 north of Fayetteville, though it too falls short of completely circumnavigating the downtown area.

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EARLIER PRINT VERSION

Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown will be asking his fellow commissioners this Wednesday (April 6) to support a re-engineering of the spending priorities for the remaining dollars from the county’s 2003 Transportation SPLOST.

Specifically, Brown wants the county to build the East Fayetteville Bypass first, which could halt the West Fayetteville Bypass project, along with numerous other transportation projects.

The East Fayetteville Bypass has drawn some criticism since it does not completely circumnavigate downtown Fayetteville. Instead, the southern terminus ends at the rural intersection of South Jeff Davis Drive, County Line Road and Inman Road. That’s well short of Ga. Highways 92 and 85 south of Fayetteville.

While the East Bypass would end at the south in a rural area of Fayette County, it is in a more urbanized area of Clayton County, and proponents are hopeful that it will be used by a number of Clayton residents to avoid downtown Fayetteville, particularly during morning and evening commutes.

The East Bypass, as proposed, would start north of Fayetteville at Ga. Highway 85 and Corinth Road, following Corinth Road to Ga. Highway 54 and then picking up a new road that would link to County Line Road, leading to the southern terminus.

Currently, the county is building the West Bypass first, as the first of three phases is complete and the second phase is in the middle of the land acquisition process. Until earlier this year, county officials hadn’t planned to proceed with the East Bypass due to cost concerns.

That changed at the Feb. 24 commission meeting when a $39.4 million funding plan was unanimously approved for the East Bypass. This plan, however, depends on $21.1 million in state and federal funds, with the remaining $18.3 million coming from the 2003 transportation SPLOST funds.

Which means if the state and federal funds fall through, the project almost certainly will languish.

Brown’s push to fund the East Fayetteville Bypass first is rooted in part at the suggestion of opponents of the West Fayetteville Bypass, which Brown has pledged to stop. Several opponents of the West Bypass have quoted chapter and verse from minutes of a 2002 meeting of all county governments in which it was decided that the top priority project for the county was the East Fayetteville Bypass.

Brown is asking the other commissioners to restore the top priority status to the East Bypass. He has acknowledged this would have a negative impact on other smaller SPLOST projects.

The county has approved a preliminary route for the East Bypass but will be looking at a final alignment at a future date. Also, county staff will be working with their counterparts in Clayton County on the project, since a good portion of the road will be built in Clayton’s jurisdiction.

Although the road path for the East Fayetteville Bypass will be two lanes in many sections, the county will buy enough right of way to upgrade the road to four lanes if such is needed in the future, officials have said.

There will also be sections of the bypass that will have three lanes, particularly at intersections and also along areas of road where there are multiple existing access points for motorists getting onto the road.

Although the discussion on Brown’s proposal is taking place during the commission’s workshop meeting, the commission may vote on the matter. Typically the commission does not vote on matters at its workshop meeting, which are the first Wednesday of each month starting at 3:30 p.m.

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