Poplar Rd./I-85 interchange gets feds' environmental approval

Another milestone in the saga of the coming full-diamond interchange at Interstate 85 and Poplar Road took shape Tuesday night when Coweta County commissioners were told the project is ahead of schedule.

“We reached a milestone,” Coweta County Director of Transportation and Engineering Tod Handley told commissioners. “The draft environmental document has been approved by the federal Dept. of Transportation.”

While the announcement may not seem significant, it is just one more step in a very lengthy process that began years ago to place an interchange at the location of what has become the epicenter for the emerging healthcare industry located around Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

The next phase of the process will involve a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 21 at the Central Educational Center located at 160 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in Newnan. The open meeting will run from 4-7 p.m.

“The project is ahead of schedule,” Handley told commissioners, noting that right-of-way acquisition is expected to begin in mid-2014. The construction contract is expected to be awarded in January 2016.

After years of planning, the Ga. Dept. of Transportation in July 2012 approved the concept plan for the full-diamond interchange.

Coweta County’s contribution to the project of up to $15 million will come from the local 1-percent sales tax (SPLOST).

Poplar Road is fast becoming a magnet for healthcare in Coweta County. The eight-story Piedmont Newnan Hospital opened last year on a large parcel of property adjacent to what will become the interchange. And though currently the tallest building in southwest metro Atlanta, long-term plans for the 362,376 square-foot facility call for the potential construction of a second hospital tower that will link to the existing building.

The opening of Piedmont Newnan Hospital also brought another healthcare asset - a 125,000 sq. ft. medical office building adjacent to the hospital that also opened last year.

Another healthcare facility in the immediate area opened nearly a year ago. The 40,000 square-foot Newnan Professional Center situated on Newnan Crossing Boulevard East and Poplar Road across from the hospital features a number of healthcare providers.

Earlier this year, HealthSouth Corp. announced that it will construct a 50-bed comprehensive physical rehabilitation hospital on Newnan Crossing Boulevard East. The $22 million investment will generate more than 125 full-time jobs and is expected to open in late 2014. At 55,000 square feet, the hospital will be situated a short distance away from the Newnan Professional Center.

Another project, approved in April, will have a 113,000 square-foot medical office and retail center on 15 acres located at Poplar Road and Newnan Crossing Bypass East. That development will be situated approximately 1,500 feet from I-85.

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