By Michael Davis
Clay Henderson has seen the growth of the Eagle's Landing Parkway area first-hand. As a real estate agent for one of the largest developments in the area, he has become infinitely familiar with what is often considered the most congested bottleneck on the south side of Atlanta: the bridge over I-75 at exit 224.
"I'm in it every day," he said.
But Monday, contractors and the Georgia Department of Transportation will reach a milestone in relieving much of that congestion.
DOT officials expect to be able to open the northern half of what will eventually become an 11-lane overpass connecting Eagle's Landing Parkway and Hudson Bridge Road. The opening was originally slated for Sunday but because they expect rain showers Sunday, engineers are holding off for a day.
The new portion of the bridge will have two through-lanes and one turn lane, something the existing bridge lacked.
But while they're not sure how much the turn lane will help, DOT officials say it should help a little.
Contractor C.W. Matthews Contracting, Co. didn't expect to be able to open that part of the bridge until the end of the year but has come in about month and a half early. "It's just a sign of how good a job they're doing," said GDOT spokesman Bert Brantley.
Expected to be completed by early 2006, the $24 million project will have a regional impact. The exit serves not only one of the largest population centers in Henry County, but the county's hospital.
"I've seen ambulances stuck up there so much," said McDonough resident Teresa Reagan.
Indeed, Henry Medical Center's Vice-President of Support Services Barry Bilder told a Chamber of Commerce group last week that there's an impression in the community that you can't get to HMC from I-75 because of the traffic.
Reagan and two of her friends were so appreciative of the construction crew's effort, they took workers 50 banana sandwiches for lunch Thursday.
"I'm very excited about this bridge," she said.
The DOT's Brantley said that even if weather holds off the partial opening, it would only be for a day or two. And they're not doing anything special to call attention to that phase of the project.
"We'll just move a few barrels," he said. "We don't want to pat ourselves on the back yet."
The next steps
Once the first three lanes of the bridge are opened, crews will be set to begin dismantling the old bridge, Brantley said.
As all DOT construction will be suspended during the Thanksgiving holiday, crews are expected to begin the demolition Nov. 29. They will begin by removing the portions over the roadway, a process that will force temporary lane closures, Brantley said.
"We'll be very discretionary about when we do the lane closures," he said, adding lanes can only be from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and will likely be only 1-2 lanes at a time.
But real estate agent Henderson said he's not thinking as much about the construction traffic as he is the final result.
"Everybody's looking forward to a positive thing," he said.
And Reagan and her friends didn't offer to feed the crew because of the holiday but because, "I just felt like someone should make them aware we appreciate what they're doing for us."