Official county information documents faulty reasons for bypass

Many letters and articles about the West Fayetteville Bypass have criticized the county for building a “road to nowhere.” Let’s take a look at the language the Fayette County Road Department has actually published as a rationale. This is available online at the Fayette county government website under SPLOST Project R-5, items #15-16. Here’s what the county says:

“Many comments were received relating to justification of the project. These include: why is the project being built, why is it located where it is, what will be the impact on traffic, what are the impacts to the City of Fayetteville, etc.?

“Within eastern Fayette County, the existing road network requires the majority of north-south traffic to travel through the center of Fayetteville. This is due to the convergence of several major arterial roadways: Ga. Highway 85, Ga. Highway 92, Ga. Highway 314 and Ga. Highway 279.

“Additionally, east and westbound traffic on Ga. Highway 54 must enter the center of Fayetteville prior to turning north or south on highways 85 and 92. This bottleneck has led to growing traffic congestion within the City and along this north-south corridor.”

Growing traffic congestion? It doesn’t take but a few minutes to go through Fayetteville, whether you’re on Hwy. 85 or Hwy. 92. Most critics agree that the traffic is indeed in the eastern part of the county.

So why does it make sense to build a road in the western part and call it a “bypass”?

Yes, we believe that a four-lane road to the east of Fayetteville would go a long way toward relieving traffic conditions. But we also understand that the east bypass got nixed due to lack of state funding and the cost of bridges.

But, while the county claims it can’t afford to buy bridges, it’s selling one to those led to believe that the west bypass will benefit the county.

The accident rate on Hwy. 85 will not be affected by building a two-lane road with traffic signals and stop signs where there’s no need to reroute traffic.

We’re told that there was a detailed traffic study supporting a need for the WFB that was made by the Atlanta Regional Commission. But ARC denied making such a study. However, even if you believe the county, have you ever heard of a two-lane bypass?

The county further states, “Accident data from the years of 2002-2004 reveal that the routes through the City of Fayetteville (SR 85 and SR 92) exceeded the statewide averages for accidents for these years and exceeded statewide averages for injuries in all years except for 2002. In 2004 these locations also exceeded the statewide averages for fatalities.

“Most accidents occurring on the SR 85 corridor are on the north side of the City of Fayetteville and along the SR 85/SR 92 corridor through the City of Fayetteville. The majority of the accidents in the study area are rear-ending accidents, while angle-type accidents are the second most common accident type.

“The high number of accidents and in particular the high number of rear-end and angle accidents in the study area indicate that traffic volume is a major contributing factor.

“As a result, the primary purpose of the proposed West Fayetteville Bypass is to offer an alternate north-south route around the center of Fayetteville. Providing options for travelers will decrease traffic volume and congestion within Fayetteville and thus improve safety and efficiency.”

Does the county expect us to believe that the WFB, a two-lane road that does not even go within several miles of Hwy. 85, will reduce accidents on Hwy. 85? Surely, if the county had some basis for this statement, it would have told us.

And what about eastbound Hwy. 54 traffic avoiding the business district? That simply will not happen, because the fact of the matter is anyone going east on Hwy. 54 is not interested in going to Eastin Road, Lees Mill Road, or Westbridge Road. They’re going to more common destinations like Fayette Pavilion, office buildings, and retail stores.

From anywhere on the WFB, you have to go around Jones’s barn to get to any shopping or office area. Westbridge Road and Hwy. 92 are five miles or more from Hwy. 85 North. So actually, the old road is still the fastest.

The county website goes on to say that the WFB was not designed for easy access to I-85. What an understatement. What they’re talking about now is an access road from Hwy. 74 and I-85 to Hwy. 92.

That ain’t gonna happen, folks. Can you even imagine the backup all the way to Peachtree City and Sandy Creek Road? Even if all published information were true, can you imagine the glut of traffic using a two-lane road as a bypass?

Take the Griffin Bypass, for example: now that’s a bypass. Four lanes of traffic that doesn’t even slow down. But that turned into a problem for Griffin. That city has stagnated around its downtown core after all supporting traffic was siphoned off and many businesses starved.

The WFB could never qualify as a bypass; it’s not wide enough, and it doesn’t go to a common destination. And even if it did what they actually say it will do, our businesses would suffer.

The county also posted, “Does the City of Fayetteville have plans for expansion and is this project proposed to support this expansion? Is the road being constructed for developers?

“Phase II is outside the Fayetteville City limits and there are no plans for City expansion along Phase II. The road is not being built for developers or to promote development. In fact, one of the key design parameters for Phase II was to select an alignment that minimizes the potential for adjacent development.

“This is accomplished by setting the road along property lines, where possible, and using existing topography, streams and wetlands to act as a natural deterrent against future development. (Aligning the road along common property lines helps minimizes the number of newly created parcels with no option for road access other than the parkway.)

“Fayette County, the City of Fayetteville and the Fayette County Development Authority are working on a Master Development Plan for the undeveloped land around the hospital and a portion of Phase I runs through this area. Access restrictions are being established to help protect the parkway from being impacted by the potential future development in this area.”

Yes, it’s agreed that the WFB does follow property lines. What the rationale fails to tell us is that most of the large tracts of land (some already fronting on other roads) to be bordered by the WFB are already owned by developers, giving them front and back entrances to their vast acreage. To avoid driveways on the WFB, all the developers have to do is cut entrance roads and start building like they did on Peachtree Parkway.

The county has never said that it will not issue building permits to the large developers owning land on the WFB. Imagine the traffic snarls at the WFB entrance to each subdivision. In fact, the county just awarded a contract to upgrade Westbridge Road, the termination part of the WFB.

Not far to the north, the Fulton/Fayette County Line is only one-quarter mile from Hwy. 138, where MARTA now runs. People are starting to connect the dots.

What the county hopes is that we citizens will give up our fight and let them have their way. That’s the reason they don’t even try to address the real issues that come with this road project that became a reality without even appearing on the 2004 SPLOST ballot.

If you don’t want millions of your tax dollars wasted on this project, you can request a hearing. The Army Corps of Engineers must approve the construction of the WFB as being in the public interest, and is required to stay issuance of the 404 Permit long enough for a 30-day protest period after the county applies.

We were advised that the 404 Application would be filed in late February or early March, but are having difficulty getting an update. You can call the COE at 678-422-6571 for more details on how to request a public hearing. You can also call the Fayette Public Works Department at 770-320-6038.

The county doesn’t seem worried over the nonsense of pursuing the project, but enough people can make a difference, and save millions of tax dollars at the same time.

Steve Smithfield

Fayetteville, Ga.

[Editor’s note: Mr. Smithfield owns property affected by the bypass construction.]

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