Fayette shifts $12.8M from west bypass to east bypass

Federal funding change still leaves east route short $36M short

In the hopes of helping along the proposed East Fayetteville Bypass, the Fayette County Commission recently voted 3-2 to steer $12.8 million in future federal funds away from the West Fayetteville Bypass.

However, the county will still fall significantly short from the “very preliminary” $48.2 million price tag for the east bypass, which would reach from Ga. Highway 85 north of the Pavilion across Ga. Highway 54 and on to McDonough Road (Truett Cathy Highway), ending at the intersection of County Line, Inman and Jeff Davis roads on the Fayette-Clayton county border.

The loss of federal funding will not cripple the west bypass, with a scaled-back version of the third and final phase proposed by county staff that would eliminate any new road segments in favor of improving intersections along the route. Also, the scaled-back phase three plan would halt at Redwine Road instead of extending to Ga. Highway 85 at Harp Road.

Commissioners Allen McCarty and Steve Brown voted against the maneuver, as McCarty said he would rather halt work on both bypasses until the economy improves.

Brown also pointed out that since the bridge replacement on Ebenezer Church Road and Whitewater Creek is a separate project, there was no need to even start the third phase of the bypass. Brown also argued that the county could use the remaining west bypass funds “in so many other ways.”

Brown last year proposed using a brand-new state law to abandon the west bypass project so the funds could be used for other county budgetary needs, but the commission ultimately rejected that idea.

Commissioner Robert Horgan, who voted in favor of the money shift from the west bypass to the east bypass, said he was concerned about the potential cost increase for right of way acquisition for the east bypass to avoid wetlands and a golf course.

Commissioner Lee Hearn, who also voted in favor of the money shift, said he favored finishing the west bypass and if the county is able to at least purchase right of way for the east bypass, that guarantees it will be built at some time in the future.

Brown said he was astounded at the lack of federal funds available for Fayette County projects and he felt local officials should be demanding “our share of those funds.”

Brown said he felt purchasing the east bypass right of way was important because the recession has kept land prices down, though it won’t likely stay that way.

The rough estimate for the total cost of the east bypass is $48.2 million, but those figures are very preliminary, according to county Public Works Director Phil Mallon. So even with the $12.8 million from the west bypass plus additional federal funding, the county will have to figure out a way to fund it in the future.

The county will still have funds to complete the west bypass, which will stretch from Ga. Highway 92 north near Westbridge Road to Ga. Highway 54 and then to Ga. Highway 54 west of Piedmont Fayette Hospital, and south on Lester Road until it reaches Ebenezer Church and Redwine roads.

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