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Flint River Road construction plows forward, business suffers

By Justin Boron

Progress comes at a risky price for the Flint River Plaza tenants in the midst of a major transportation project on Flint River Road.

Business owners, like Celeste Strauch of Manila's Best, are caught between the construction's current commercial damage, and the potential it offers once it is complete in the next three to four years.

The road's widening will create a four lane east-west thoroughfare in the lower part of the county, alleviating traffic backups created by the more than 18,000 cars that drive parts of the road each day.

"When the road gets bigger, I think there will be a lot more cars," Strauch said.

The Filipino business owner said she rests her hopes in the business that the enhanced roadway will generate.

But in the meantime, the construction has limited the small-business plaza's exposure, she said.

Opening her Filipino grocery cafe in July, despite the extensive traffic project under way, Strauch aimed to hold out until the tractors and mounds of red clay were replaced by thousands of potential customers driving between Ga. Highway 85 and Tara Boulevard.

With the major road on the horizon, optimism in the business owner trumps any inconveniences created by the construction.

"Last week we lost power and the phones got messed up," Strauch said. "I am thinking that it will really pick up."

She said she worries, though, that her zeal may fade before the long-lived project's end.

Flint River Road widening has been in the works for almost 20 years, said Wayne Patterson, the Clayton County director of transportation and development.

Its first phase, widening of the road between Glenwood Road and Thomas Road, is complete.

The county's Special Local Option Sales Tax recently pulled two other phases from the backburner, Patterson said.

It has been planned for years, the project is just now getting around to being a reality," he said.

SPLOST dollars have gone toward the rehabilitation of the road from Pointe South Parkway to Thomas Road and pushed forward its widening between Kendrick Road and Tara Boulevard.

Patterson said the three phases should help to increase the road's capacity, which with only two lanes open, is 25 percent beyond saturation.

However, with the largest section of the project still untouched, the overall effect of the widening on the area's traffic patterns may remain to be seen, he said.

The widening between Glenwood Road and Kendrick Road will require about $400,000 in right-of-way acquisition and $2.2 million in construction.

The funds will come from state-guaranteed-revenue bonds, originating from money that Clayton County provided the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in 2002 and 2003 for its express bus system, Patterson said.

By providing the money, the county will receive a $10 to $1 return for arterial road projects like the Flint River Road, said William Mecke, the communications director for GRTA.

The sum of the projects will reduce congestion but also could bring some re-development opportunities, said Emory Brock, the county director of economic development.

Housing tracts already have set up along the road, he said.

The recently completed River Oaks Townhomes has 77 units on 15 acres off Flint River Road.

Another development still under construction will bring 43 single-family homes to 10 acres near the road.

Beyond the new neighborhoods, the area would have to move in a re-development direction since most of the property is shored up, Brock said.

But the impact of construction will need to be deciphered before any re-development plans could be defined, he said.

The long wait for completion and the question marks in development mix to create nervousness in Strauch.

But she said she was in for the long haul even tough traffic will likely continue hamper her business.

"I'm committed for three years," she said.