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West Bypass Part 1 nearing finish

Despite playing a major role in the upset victories of two West Fayetteville Bypass opponents over County Commission incumbents, the controversial paving project keeps chugging along as if the election never happened.

In recent weeks the West Fayetteville Bypass has popped up on the radar screen of many local motorists as work began on the intersection of Ga. Highway 54 and Huiet Road, which is where the first phase of the bypass begins.

The first phase runs from the realigned Huiet Road northward to Sandy Creek Road, and work on the project is expected to be wrapped up by December, said Fayette County Public Works Director Phil Mallon.

Motorists will see most construction work wrapping up in the area in about three weeks as the waiting process continues for the traffic signal mast arms for the intersection of Hwy. 54 and the bypass. That equipment has to be specially manufactured for the project, Mallon said.

The light installation will be the last portion of the first phase to be completed. In the meantime, the connection at Sandy Creek Road is being delayed until the project is closer to being open for traffic to avoid unnecessary stops and turns for vehicles on Sandy Creek Road, Mallon said.

Meanwhile, design continues on the second phase of the bypass, which will run from the end of the first phase at Sandy Creek Road to the north and west where it will end at Ga. Highway 92 and West Bridge Road in north-central Fayette County near the Fulton County line and just south of Union City. Hwy. 92 passes over Interstate 85, but there will be no direct ramp access to the interstate at that point.

Mallon estimated the design work is about 75 percent complete. Land acquisition for the second phase has been put on hold until the road design is approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mallon said.

The Corps of Engineers approval is expected to occur late in the summer or early fall, he said.

Opponents of the bypass have petitioned the Corps of Engineers to deny approval of the various wetland crossings that are associated with the project, and that citizen feedback is one of the reasons the evaluation process has taken significantly longer than would have been expected, officials have said.

The remaining design elements on the second phase of the bypass are a bridge over Whitewater Creek north of Eastin and Graves roads along with the major intersections along the route. Among those intersections is the bypass terminus at Ga. Highway 92 and West Bridge Road, a short distance from the existing traffic signal at Hwy. 92 and Rivers Road.

The Georgia Department of Transportation, which regulates state highways such as Hwy. 92, has placed a recent emphasis on roundabouts as intersection improvements instead of traffic lights, Mallon explained. Because of this, the county may end up with a roundabout at the bypass intersection with Hwy. 92 and West Bridge Road instead of a traffic light, Mallon said.

If the county wants a full signal at the intersection instead, it will have to prove that a roundabout won’t work for the intersection, Mallon said.

As far as the third phase of the bypass is concerned, not much has transpired beyond preliminary design work, Mallon said.

The third phase will go from the terminus of the first phase at Hwy. 54 and Huiet Road to the southeast where it will end at Ga. Highway 85 and Harp Road. The initial plans were for the third phase to start on Harp Road a short distance off Hwy. 85, but it can be extended to Hwy. 85, Mallon said. It is anticipated there will be no significant changes to Harp Road beyond intersection improvements, he added.

The good news for the third phase of the bypass is that it will qualify for federal funding, as it has been included on the state’s long-range list of regional transportation projects, Mallon said. While the project was initially estimated to cost about $28 million, a more updated cost estimate is around $11 million based on the preliminary design, Mallon said.

It’s unclear whether or not the federal funding will become available in the future, Mallon noted. Even if the federal funding doesn’t come through, there will be adequate SPLOST funds to complete the third and final phase of the bypass, Mallon said.

The first phase of the bypass is expected to cost $6.85 million by the time it’s complete. So far the county has spent $5.78 million on the first phase of the bypass through June of this year.

The preliminary estimate for the second phase of the bypass is $11.5 million, but that figure will be revised in the fall to reflect a more accurate figure based on specific engineering for the project, Mallon said. So far the county has spent $804,500 on the second phase of the bypass.

The estimate for the third phase of the bypass is $11.73 million, but it may change significantly based on the final alignment of the road, Mallon said. The county has spent $12,500 so far on the third phase of the bypass.

On July 20, former Peachtree City Mayor Steve Brown and newcomer Allen McCarty defeated Commission Chairman Jack Smith and Commissioner Eric Maxwell, both staunch supporters of the bypass.

Brown and McCarty don't take office until Jan. 1, and the other three commissioners have been unwavering supporters of the bypass in the past.

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