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Interstate 75 exit to get $50,000 facelift

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Henry County officials have accepted a $50,000 grant that will be used to enhance a busy freeway exchange in McDonough this summer.

The Board of Commissioners approved the "GATEway" grant from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) during a recent commission meeting.

The money will be used to buy trees and shrubbery to plant along Interstate 75 at exit 218, said Cheri Hobson-Matthews, Henry County transportation planning and zoning director. The interchange was chosen as part of a larger effort to promote tourism in the county, said Hobson-Matthews.

"The grant application was submitted last October, as the board of commissioners have continued to place an assertive effort in retaining and attracting thousands of visitors and locals, who traverse exit 218," Hobson-Matthews said.

"In October 2005, the segment of Georgia Highway 20 between Interstate 75 and the Atlanta Motor Speedway was officially opened and dedicated by Gov. Sonny Perdue. The new four-lane roadway, together with Henry County's rapid growth, and two races a year, make real estate development along, and around, this corridor viable," she said.

The grant will cover the cost of landscaping the entrance and exit ramps. No lane closures are anticipated. The project will consist of multiple phases, and is expected to begin later this year, said Hobson-Matthews.

"Work on the interchange can't begin until we have a consultant on board to modify the conceptual plan prepared last year," she said. "A Request For Proposals (RFP) is being prepared, and should go out by early June. Actual installation of plantings and materials should occur in late August, pending approval by the GDOT, for a Special Encroachment permit."

The money is earmarked to make the community greener, said Hobson-Matthews. The cost listed to purchase the landscaping materials is $49,782.26, according to documentation Hobson-Matthews presented to the commissioners.

"The funds cannot be used for maintenance, design, administration, highway construction, office furnishings, fixtures, equipment or mitigation," she added. "Again, the grant funds can be used for 'softscape' landscaping only. Paving, benches, fences, flagpoles, signage, lighting or fountains are not allowed."

The landscaping will promote a greener, more attractive community, said Michael Harris, director of the Henry County Planning and Zoning Services Division.

"Landscaped interchanges are far less apt to attract garbage and debris like our current interchange ramps do," said Harris. "This is yet another effort to show those who live in, and travel through, Henry County that we take pride in our community."