Coweta OK's funding for Poplar Rd. interchange engineering

The long-planned Poplar Road interchange at Interstate 85 on Newnan’s south side moved another step closer to reality Tuesday when the Coweta County Commission approved funding for the final engineering phase of the project.

Coweta County Transportation and Engineering Director Tod Handley said with the Phase 2 portion of the full-diamond interchange project well-underway, it is time to add engineering and design services to the project to complete the final design phase.

By way of background, Handley said the county entered into a consultant agreement with consultant CHA in October 2010 for the concept, planning and design of the interchange. The scope of the original consultant agreement covered the first phase of the Ga. Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) plan development process, resulting in approval of the project concept report by DOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in July 2012.

The consultant agreement was amended after the conocept report was approved by DOT and FHWA in July 2012, adding preliminary design services which are the second phase of DOT’s plan development process. The preliminary design for the project is progressing well to this point, Handley said.

“One major milestone in this second phase is the approval of the draft environmental document by DOT and FHWA,” said Handley. “The approval of the draft environmental document was received from FHWA and DOT on Oct. 1, which allowed the recently held public hearing open house for the project to be held.”

Handley said the next steps in the DOT process will be the inclusion of the comments from the public hearing into the environmental document that will then be submitted as the final environmental document and the FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact). The submittal is expected to take place in January and will be followed, upon approval, by the preliminary field plan review which is currently projected to be held in March, said Handley.

“The proposed addendum to the existing consultant agreement will add the scope of services necessary to complete the final engineering phase of the project and carry the project from the preliminary field plan review to the project letting by DOT,” Handley said prior to the commission’s vote.

The estimated total cost of the final engineering phase of the interchange project is $679,409.

Right-of-way acquisition is expected to begin in mid-2014. The construction contract is expected to be awarded in January 2016.

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.