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Fast-track road projects are slow, but steady so far

By Diane Wagner

Road improvement funding promised last fall by state officials could start flowing in Henry and Clayton counties by the end of the year.

The Georgia Department of Transportation put a handful of projects in each county on a fast track for construction, in exchange for participation in an 11-county regional bus program.

Clayton County will net close to $29 million for roads, following a $2.45 million contribution for buses. Henry County chipped in $1.8 million for buses to get $22.5 million for roads.

Representatives from GDOT, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the counties are expected to meet Sept. 8 to finalize the agreements.

"There is a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes, even though the public probably won't notice anything until construction starts," said Andy Adams, deputy director of the Clayton County Transportation and Development Department.

Buses?the state has 58 on order?could start rolling in the spring, according to GRTA Manager of Communications William Mecke.

Routes from McDonough and the Clayton County Justice Center to downtown Atlanta are part of the first phase. Service from Stockbridge to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport is planned for the second of four phases.

"We're still working on the bus stops," Mecke said. "We're going to operate out of existing park-and-ride lots, church lots, places like that. And we have MARTA as the backbone so riders can easily transfer."

HENRY COUNTY PROJECTS

Michael Harris, director of the Henry County Public Works Division, said several of the county's projects are already in the design phase.

"They're at varying phases because we've known this was coming," he said. "They're reimbursable costs. With infrastructure being such a key component of the growth issues we're dealing with, the commissioners wanted to move ahead quickly."

A major priority is the widening of Eagle's Landing Parkway from Interstate 75 to Ga. Highway 42. In addition to being a major artery for commuters and shoppers, the Parkway is the main route to Henry Medical Center from most of the county.

"I pray I never have a (medical) emergency during traffic time because my life would be in real danger," Locust Grover resident Frances Glover said. "It's like trying to put 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack."

Other projects include:

* Widening Rock Quarry Road

* Extending Patrick Henry Parkway, East Lake Road, Campground Road and McDonough Parkway to create alternate travel routes

* Upgrading Hampton/Locust Grove Road

CLAYTON COUNTY PROJECTS

Adams said Clayton County would start design work on its projects after the money becomes available from the state. Add time to acquire the right of way, he said, and it will likely be 2005 before any construction begins.

About $6.5 million, however, will fund improvements to the county's Advanced Transportation Management System. The ATMS program includes items such as surveillance cameras, fiber optic cable, traffic signals and a master traffic plan.

Other projects include:

* Widening Tara Road, Flint River Road and Conley Road

* Extending Aviation Boulevard to connect at Conley Road

* Building a new bridge at Rex Road and routing the road from the old historic bridge now in use

* Widening Anvil Block Road. The original plan called for five lanes from Bouldercrest Road to the Henry County line, but the proposed Ellenwood Town Center project would add over 1,000 housing units and a mall to the area.

"That concept is going to need to be studied to see if a five-lane the best option," Adams said. "It might be safer with four lanes and a raised grass meridian with openings."

Harris said state officials are scheduled to discuss final plans with representatives from the 11 counties at the meeting next month.

"I expect the Sept. 8 meeting will shed a lot of light on how the process is going to work and what the time schedule is going to be," he said.