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Railroad work closing two intersections

By Ed Brock

Norfolk Southern Corporation's ongoing work on its rail line that passes through Clayton County will lead to the closing of two major roads for at least a day each this week.

On Wednesday Forest Parkway near North Lake Drive will be closed beginning at 8 a.m. to allow the railroad crews to improve the surface of the track crossing there, according to Clayton County Traffic Engineer Jeff Metarko's office. Similar work will close Southlake Parkway near Ga. Highway 54 on Thursday.

The news came as a shock for Perimeter Bobcat managers Joe Jones and Mark Boudreau when they learned about the Forest Parkway closing. The Norfolk Southern tracks cross that road just east of their company that rents and sells Bobcat utility vehicles and equipment.

"It's going to mess up our business bad," Boudreau said. "It's going to cost us money. It's going to cost us time and money."

Metarko's office has posted signs at both crossings alerting drivers to the planned closings and they have drawn up detour routes for both.

That won't help the truck drivers who are bringing or picking up equipment to and from Perimeter Bobcat, Jones said.

"Driving those big trucks, they're not going to take too kindly to a detour," Jones said.

Metarko said Norfolk Southern and his department will do their best to make the closings as painless as possible, though he knows it won't be perfect. Forest Parkway is a four-lane road but the detours around the crossing work will be on two-lane roads, Metarko said.

And Southlake Parkway is in the middle of Morrow's busy retail sales district with Southlake Mall on the other side of Highway 54 from where the closing will take place.

Norfolk Southern has been very cooperative in just informing the county about the closings, Metarko said.

"It's really their right-of-way. They didn't have to notify anybody," Metarko said.

Engineers from Metarko's department will be going out to check on the work and the traffic flow throughout the days of the construction and monitoring how the traffic is flowing through the detour routes.

"If the detour runs through an adjutant traffic signal we're going to change the timing on that signal," Metarko said.

The work is part of regular maintenance the railroad is doing on its line between Atlanta and Macon, Norfolk Southern representatives said previously. The crews will lay down concrete slabs designed to create a smoother ride for cars and trucks as they pass over the tracks.

Last week the work on the crossing on Clayton State Boulevard near the main entrance to Clayton College & State University lasted until about 8 p.m., Metarko said. The Norfolk Southern crews will be able to work even if it rains, Metarko said, but if the work does run over they will finish the Forest Parkway work on Thursday and do the Southlake Parkway work on Friday.

Drivers on Forest Parkway will be diverted down North Lake Drive to Harper Drive and from Harper Drive to North Parkway to connect again with Forest Parkway. The Southlake Parkway detour will divert drivers coming across Highway 54 from Southlake Mall to Highway 54 and then to Mt. Zion Road rather than taking Southlake Parkway across to Mt. Zion Road. Drivers seeking to access the mall from Mt. Zion Road westbound will cross Highway 54 and turn onto Park Place or other roads leading to the mall.

And in both cases access will still be available to businesses located on either side of the closed tracks, Metarko said.

While the Southlake Parkway closing may tie up traffic for shoppers, Hampton Inn Assistant General Manager Tim Stanley was sure it would not affect the hotel's guests because there is no left turn from Highway 54 southbound onto Southlake Parkway and I-75 is north of the intersection.

"All our guests (coming off the interstate) come in from Mt. Zion Road," Stanley said.