By Billy Corriher
Sullivan Road, which was closed this spring to allow construction of the fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, was reopened Tuesday, a week before its scheduled opening.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony, said the early completion of the road was a result of all parties n Clayton County, the airport, and the city of Atlanta n working together to minimize traffic interruptions.
Hartsfield-Jackson is in Clayton County but the City of Atlanta owns and operates it.
"We paid attention to (the county Board of Commissioners) when you said you did not want to disrupt traffic in Clayton County," Franklin said.
Beth Craig, of Beth Craig & Associates, works off Sullivan Road and said she is happy the road has reopened.
"It will definitely improve my ride home," she said. "They did it a lot faster than I thought they would."
Until now, Craig had to take the detour on Clark Howell Highway and Airport Loop Road, which she said was much more congested than Sullivan Road.
The new two-lane portion of Sullivan Road, from Derrick Jones Road to Riverdale Road, was shifted about half a mile from the old road and now ends at the intersection of Riverdale Road and Phoenix Boulevard, instead of crossing over Interstate 285.
When construction of the road is completed this summer, Sullivan Road will have four lanes, which should be enough to accommodate projected traffic on the road until 2025, said project engineer Keith Kunst.
The new road's intersection with Phoenix Boulevard and Riverdale Road will also be expanded to include left turn lanes on all the roads and a new entrance to the Cherry Hills subdivision will be constructed at Seaborn Place.
The $11 million it cost to shift the 1.25-mile portion of the road was paid for by the airport. Crandle Bray, chairman of the Clayton County board of commissioners, said that since the road will accommodate traffic until 2025, the county will not have to pay to expand the road in the near future.
In addition to raising concerns about traffic interruption, Clayton County refused to close the road for construction until the city of Atlanta agreed to allow the county to market and sell land in Mountain View, a vacant area adjacent to the airport.
Bray said he was also surprised that the project was completed this early and credited Franklin for addressing the board's concerns and ensuring timely construction.
"I didn't even think it could be done," he said.
Dwight Pullen, director of the airport's runway project, said that after hearing the Clayton County commissioners' concerns, the city and airport fast-tracked plans for the project with contractors.
"Projects like this are always challenging, but we really worked together," Pullen said. "The key to the whole thing was working well with Clayton County to acquire the land (for construction)."