Another 3-to-2 vote as Fayette awards West Bypass contract
To no one’s surprise, it was another split 3-2 vote last week that authorized the contract for construction of the second phase of the West Fayetteville Bypass, also known as Veterans Parkway.
Commissioners Steve Brown and Allen McCarty again found themselves on the losing end, having entered office on a pledge to stop the project. All they need is just one of three votes to swing their way, but so far they have been unsuccessful with that sales pitch. Commissioners Robert Horgan, Herb Frady and Lee Hearn have continued voting in favor of all bypass-related contracts for both engineering and construction work.
The second phase of the bypass is expected to cost $16.1 million, some $800,000 under the initial estimate. Once the second phase is complete, motorists will be able to traverse from Ga. Highway 54 west of Piedmont Fayette Hospital all the way to Ga. Highway 92 North at West Bridge Road.
The third phase of the bypass is expected to stretch from the current origin on Ga. Highway 54 to the south and east to reach Ga. Highway 85 south at Harp Road. A conceptual alignment shows that third phase using Lester Road and part of Ebenezer Church Road, but a final road path has not yet been put to a vote.
The bypass project is being paid for with revenue from the 2004 countywide transportation sales tax.
At the Sept. 22 meeting, Brown claimed the bypass is a “developer welfare project” but offered no specifics to back up that claim. Brown said when the sales tax was voted on, voters were told the county’s top priority would be the East Fayetteville Bypass, but instead county leaders decided to proceed with the West Fayetteville Bypass.
The county commission decided several years ago to put the West Bypass first because it could be built without relying on federal transportation funds, which stood to significantly delay the project. Had the county chosen to build the East Bypass first, using a local-funds only strategy, it would have eaten up a large part of the sales tax proceeds, officials said at the time.
Horgan said he felt the road was needed for the county’s future, recalling that when he grew up here, Ga. Highway 54 “was just a two-lane road.” He also said that because of the sales tax, some people who lived outside Fayette County helped pay for the West Bypass.
Commissioner Herb Frady said he’s been around long enough to remember when Redwine Road was unpaved and when Peachtree Parkway ended at McIntosh Trail in Peachtree City. Frady said roads were necessary for the county’s future.
“I think some folks are going to have to open their eyes and look at the future,” Frady said.
Prior to their vote, the commission heard a report from Peachtree City resident Bob Ross, who analyzed traffic data to determine if the bypass was needed.
Ross noted that while current construction costs “are relatively low,” the existing traffic studies justifying the West Bypass suggest it would be useful, but not urgent.
Ross suggested the county “stop construction that can be reasonably deferred” and reconsider shifting the funds to other projects. That could be done in conjunction with perhaps improving the signal timing on north-south arterial roads in the county, he added.
The construction contract was awarded to the low bidder, E.R. Snell Contractor Inc., which beat out six other bidders on the project. Snell’s winning bid came in at just over $3.4 million.