South bypass extension, Poplar Road exit among Coweta's transportation plans
by Sarah Fay Campbell
As work winds down on the widening of the Hwy. 34 Bypass across the north side of Newnan, one of Coweta's most needed and long-anticipated projects, eyes are turning toward two other much needed and highly anticipated projects — the new Interstate 85 interchange at Poplar Road, and extension of the Newnan Bypass from its current ending point at Turkey Creek Road to Ga. Hwy. 16 East/ U.S. 29 South.
The newly four-laned 34 Bypass, from Bullsboro Drive to Hwy. 16 West, opened to traffic in October 2012. The project had begun in August 2009 and stretched well past its scheduled completion date, plagued by various delays. Though it's been open for months now, the project is still not officially complete, as there are various close-out items that need to be done, and a signal upgrade is still needed at the Bypass and Bullsboro to allow the additional right-turn lane to be used. Crews from the contractor, Sunbelt Structures, were on site in March working on drainage structures.
Right-of-way acquisition for the next leg of the Bypass on the south side of Newnan is set to begin sometime this spring, and the new road is scheduled to open to traffic in 2016.
That's about the same time that construction will begin in earnest on the new Poplar Road interchange off I-85.
Coweta County staff and officials have been doing their best over the past few years to speed up the interchange project.
"We have really advanced that project," said Coweta County Administrator Theron Gay. Even though motorists won't see progress on the ground yet, a lot of work is being done behind the scenes.
The interchange project is currently in the "preliminary engineering" phase. In September, consultants were out taking samples for soil and pavement analysis.
Engineering is moving right along. Once the engineering is completed, the plans will be submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. Once the plans are approved "we can start acquiring right-of-way," Gay said. Right-of-way acquisition probably won't begin in earnest until 2014.
As for the south Bypass extension, the project will encompass more than just the new road. It will also include the four-laning of Hwy. 16 East from the Bypass to U.S. 29, the closing of a portion of East Gordon Road, an intersection improvement at U.S. 29, Hwy. 16 and Pine Road, and four-laning of U.S. 29 South from I-85 to just north of the Pine Road intersection, which will get a traffic signal. Everything will be let under one contract.
Those are the county's major transportation projects, but county crews, and contractors, are always kept busy on resurfacing and maintenance projects. There will also be some intersection improvement and bridge replacement projects done in the next few years.
Coweta County recently purchased a milling machine, also called a "cold planer," which will allow county crews to do some road work that previously had to be contracted out.
Milling machines are used for the "full depth reclamation" resurfacing process, but are also used for more minor road rehabilitation and repaving projects.
The county's plan is to try and "stay in front of the maintenance" and get to roads before they need a full depth reclamation project. The milling machine can be used for large patching jobs as well as resurfacing.
A large amount of money in the 2013 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is set aside for road maintenance, said Assistant County Administrator Kelly Mickle. "We're hoping we can really ramp that up," Mickle said of the road improvements. "It will cost us less if we stay in front of the maintenance."
County crews recently have been trying out the new milling machine, using it to grind up portions of the course where generations of Cowetans earned their driver's license. The former Georgia State Patrol post on Hospital Road in Newnan was recently demolished, and the driving course was perfect for milling machine practice.
With the cold and wet weather, "it's not a good time to do the work, but it's a good time to practice," Gay said. "As soon as we can we're going to get it out" on the roads but "in the meantime, we're learning to use the equipment."
Of course, there is more to transportation in Coweta County than roads.
The county's transit system, partially funded through the federal Section 5311 program, continues to be successful.
New "route match" software implemented last year has greatly improved the efficiency of the routing for the system, and is allowing it to serve more people.
Coweta Transit is a "dial-a-ride" system. Riders have to call, at least 24 hours in advance, to schedule their trip.
Coweta has recently been approved for two replacement buses. The old buses will be sold at auction and the county is considering buying them back.
For more information on Coweta's transit system, visit www.coweta.ga.us and click on "services" then "transportation." Or, call 770-683-RIDE (7433). The system operates Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.