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I-85/Hwy. 74 interchange improvements years away

Commuters hoping for progress on the choke point of Ga. Highway 74 and Interstate 85 shouldn’t be expecting action anytime soon.

The good news is that the state is still working toward a “partial cloverleaf” design, which would have more capacity than for a diverging diamond layout ... and engineering is currently underway, according to state transportation officials.

Right of way acquisition has been accelerated to 2018, but the actual construction is mired in a “long range” plan that could mean anytime between 2020 and 2030.

While the diverging diamond plan would likely be quicker and cheaper to implement, the partial cloverleaf would take more time and money, with a projected total cost of $33 million. A final decision has yet to be made, according to Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson Natalie Dale, who said the project is in the “early conceptual development stage.”

DOT is aware of the traffic issues for commuters at the interchange and is working with the city of Fairburn, where the interchange is located, and the Georgia Highway 74 alliance “to produce the best solution to alleviate the congestion,” Dale said.

At this point the state is waiting on engineering progression results, Dale said this week.

Atlanta Regional Commission spokesperson Jim Jaquish noted that the right-of-way purchase was moved up and though there is no concrete construction date as of this time, progress on the right-of-way acquisition is very important.

“If that happens, possibly construction could happen a little bit sooner,” Jaquish said. “It depends what funding is available.”

The state is facing a funding crisis as the federal highway “trust fund” for transportation projects is due to expire soon. A shortfall of federal funding wouldn’t hurt this project initially, but could force the state’s hand next year, Jaquish said.

The inaction from Congress could cost roughly 30 percent in revenues which would trigger a reevaluation of all state transportation projects, Jaquish added.

“We are hopeful,” he said. “In recent years, Congress has always found a way to fund transportation on at least the same level it was being funded previously.”

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