Photo by Jim Massara
Frank Rousu says patronizing the Tara Boulevard businesses he likes would be harder if Tara is turned into a “super arterial” with limited access.
JONESBORO — The single most expensive Clayton County transportation project that would be financed by the proposed TSPLOST would change Tara Boulevard near I-75 into a limited-access highway with frontage roads.
Whether or not that’s a good thing depends on whether you live there or are just passing through.
If approved by voters July 31, a 1-cent sales tax will bankroll converting Tara from I-75 to Battle Creek Road into what traffic engineers call a “super arterial” road. The final price is expected to be just over $102 million, even more costly than the return of bus service to Clayton.
What’s a ‘super arterial’?
Think of it this way: If a human artery moves blood rapidly from the heart, Tara Boulevard as a “super arterial” road would move cars rapidly from the I-75 to points south. Traffic lights would be gone, and access to the businesses currently along Tara will be via a few ramps that lead to frontage roads on both sides of the “super arterial.” Drivers going to or from I-75 would get where they’re going much faster.
Conceptually, Tara Boulevard would be “very, very similar” to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard just north of I-285 in DeKalb County, said Keith Rohling, assistant director of transportation and development for Clayton County. That segment is an elevated highway with two-lane roads running parallel to it so area businesses can still be reached via access ramp.
Exactly where ramps would be built on the new Tara won’t be determined until and if the project is approved and a general concept is developed, Rohling said. Only then would stakeholders — local government officials and the general public — be invited to share their opinions about it.
“In order to get people talking, you have to have something to show them,” he said.
But even without plans on the table, people are talking about it.
Who likes it, who doesn’t
Fatima Diallo of Riverdale, a salon operator in Arrowhead Shopping Center, was blunt when asked her opinion: “I don’t like it.”
Caprise Rice, also of Riverdale, initially wasn’t sure what to think when told Tara would be turned into a highway.
“I thought it was already like a highway, four lanes there anyway,” Rice said while Diallo attached weaves to her hair. “The frontage roads would probably make it harder to get to certain locations. It might be very congested, too. If there’s less congestion, that’s better.”
Others thought it could benefit their businesses. Miguel Rivera, a Forest Park taxi owner parked near the shopping center, said “it is a good thing” if it helps him make more money. And Tony Davis of Jonesboro, general manager of the recently opened Southside Discount Mall, agreed. “We deal with a lot of congestion on the weekend, just overall accessibility to our facility. It [the Tara overhaul] is a good thing.”
Frank Rousu of Dallas, Ga., who works for Alliance Bus Group in Forest Park, takes a broader view. Transplanted from Minnesota in the 1990s, drove back home recently and said he was struck by how much better he thought Atlanta’s roads were than those in Minneapolis.
“I will drive in Atlanta traffic any time of the day or night compared to a lot of the other infrastructures out there,” Rousu said while waiting for his order at the Waffle House on Tara Boulevard just off I-75.
He said he thought turning Tara into a “super arterial” would speed traffic through the area but devastate businesses left by the side of the road.
“I try to take care of local businesses,” Rousu said. “I go [down Tara] to get my car washed, but imagine taking the highway to get there. It’s going to be almost impossible to get there. You’re not going to be able to do it on a regular basis. You’d have to do a complete turnaround to get back to work.”
And the TSPLOST as a whole?
“From what I see, they need to fix the system and not add to the problem,” Rousu said, just as his lunch was delivered. “That’s what I think.”