West Fayetteville Bypass to be half-pass?
Lee Hearn’s shift could ditch lower third of bypass construction in favor of shifting money to build east bypass
The controversial West Fayetteville Bypass may lose its majority vote on the Fayette County Commission in coming weeks, potentially ditching the southern third of the roadway.
In a major shift last week, Commissioner Lee Hearn suggested abandoning the current alignment for the third phase, which would have created a continuous stretch of road from Ga. Highway 54 to Ga. Highway 85 south.
Instead, Hearn asked staff to look into a plan for the bypass that would use the existing road path of Ebenezer Church Road and Lester Road to complete the West Fayetteville bypass by making intersection improvements instead to handle a higher volume of traffic.
Doing so, however, would put the bypass short of its initial goal of linking with Ga. Highway 85 south several miles south of Fayetteville. Perhaps more importantly, the loss of the continuous road path on its southern half could negate the road’s overarching goal: to move traffic smoothly around Fayetteville so commuters in particular don’t have to trudge through the downtown area.
Under Hearn’s suggestion, the bypass would effectively end on the southside at the intersection of Ebenezer Church and Redwine roads. And instead of new road segments being built to create a continuous smooth flow, the county would instead improve the major intersections on the southern route.
In essence, you will have to turn at least twice to stay on the road until it reaches Ga. Highway 54. A traditional bypass road provides a smooth road path with no required turns.
With the intersection improvements, but no continuous road path, “You would get efficiency improvements, you would get safety improvements, but what you don’t get are true capacity improvements,” said county Public Works Director Phil Mallon. “But that may be great as an interim fix for maybe the next 10 or 15 years unless traffic demand forces the need for those capacity improvements.”
Hearn’s concept would eliminate a new road path that would extend Ebenezer Church Road past Redwine Road and onto Harp Road, where the bypass would reach Hwy. 85 at what is currently a two-way stop.
The modified plan of avoiding new road paths would cut the cost down quite a bit and be “more palatable” to the public, Hearn said.
It also would still allow the county to seek federal funds for the replacement of the bridge on Ebenezer Church Road, which is in need of replacement, according to county officials.
Another upshot of the scaled-back bypass concept is that the plan might handle the county’s current traffic needs until future traffic creates a demand for the continuous road on the third phase of the bypass, Mallon said.
Also, the county would stand to save a pile of money since it wouldn’t have to fund the “new road paths” to create the continuous road by combining Ebenezer Church and Lester roads. Mallon said he did not have a concrete estimate on the savings yet, but he thinks the savings would be “significant.”
The trimmed bypass plan would also have far less of an effect on property owners, though it depends on how much land is needed for the intersection improvements, Mallon said.
Commissioner Allen McCarty again authored a motion Thursday night to halt the West bypass and instead spend funds on the East Fayetteville Bypass, but it died on a 2-2 tie. Commissioner Steve Brown joined McCarty in voting for the death of the West bypass, while Hearn and Commissioner Robert Horgan voted against the motion. Commission Chairman Herb Frady was not present as he was attending the graduation of a family member.
The commission, however is likely to revisit the matter following the July 31 regional transportation sales tax referendum, which if passed would provide funding for the entire East Fayetteville Bypass, which would stretch from Ga. Highway 85 north on Corinth Road and cross Ga. Highway 54 to reach County Line Road, where it would terminate in the middle of a rural area of Fayette County at the intersection of South Jeff Davis Drive, County Line Road and Inman Road.
At last week’s meeting, Commissioner Steve Brown argued that the east bypass was the top-rated project prior to the sales tax being approved by voters. But Commissioner Robert Horgan noted that the county commission never voted to rank the east bypass as the top project.
Hearn said he still believes in the East Fayetteville Bypass, but he thinks the decision on the west bypass should wait until after the regional transportation sales tax referendum on July 31. If the sales tax is approved, the east bypass will be fully funded, Hearn noted.
W. Bypass rolls on in N. Fayette
By BEN NELMS (bnelms@TheCitizen.com)
It’s full steam ahead for Phase 2 of the West Fayetteville Bypass. Work on the two roadway sections, a bridge over Whitewater Creek and a new intersection at Ga. Highway 92 and Westbridge Road are expected to be completed by spring 2013.
Bypass project manager Carlos Christian said Phase 2 work is being performed in two sections. The first is supplied by the county and extends from south of Tillman Road to Eastin Road. That section is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Christian said.
That section will not be opened until the second section running from Eastin Road to the Hwy. 92/Westbridge Road intersection is completed.
The second section is being constructed by E.R. Snell and has a 550-day contract completion date, said Christian. The notice to proceed was given in October and the road is expected to be completed by spring 2013.
Beyond the construction of the actual roadway, the second section includes two additional projects. One is a bridge over Whitewater Creek north of Eastin Road. Christian said the bridge contract is likely to go to bid in the next two months, with construction expected to take approximately one year.
Also in the plan is the intersection improvement at Hwy. 92 and Westbridge Road. Christian said the county is proposing a roundabout for the intersection. That proposal, said Christian, is largely in the hands of the Ga. Department of Transportation for ultimate approval.
The revamped intersection work is not included in the E.R. Snell contract, Christian added.
If all goes according to plan the second section of Phase 2, the Whitewater Creek bridge and the new intersection at Hwy. 92 and Westbridge will all be completed in the same time period.
In total, Phase 2 totals approximately 4.5 miles, running from approximately a half-mile south of Tillman Road/Sandy Creek Road north to the intersection of Ga. Highway 92 and Westbridge Road.
With 100 feet of right-of-way, Phase 2 will be a two-lane road.
Phase 1 extends from Lester Road on the south side of Ga. Highway 54 to the approximately one half mile south of old intersection of Sandy Creek Road and Tillman Road.