Coweta Development Authority
Population could nearly double by 2040
by Clay Neely
With a projected population of more than 250,000 citizens in Coweta by 2040, the transportation needs of both the present and future of the county were discussed at the Coweta County Development Authority meeting on Thursday.
Tavores Edwards, transportation manager of the Coweta County Transportation & Engineering Department, presented copies of the updated Joint Comprehensive Transportation Plan.
Current projects include new interchanges for Interstate 85 at Poplar Road south of the Bullsboro exit and what is being called the Amlajack interchange north of Bullsboro, as well as widening of Poplar Road from Newnan Crossing Bypass to Newnan Crossing Boulevard East.
“We want to get moving forward on the Amlajack interchange,” Edwards said. “It’s very important for connectivity to the three industrial parks as well as the connectivity provided by Hollz Parkway, extending it across the bridge over to what will be Amlajack Boulevard extension as well as Coweta Industrial Parkway extension and then going over to U.S. 29 eventually to what we call the Madras connection.”
“So there’s a lot of great north-south connectivity that’s planned with that interchange,” said Edwards of the proposed Amlajack interchange project. “We are working as a county to hopefully make some public-private partnerships happen with that project. We’re going to need that assistance to make it successful.”
The transportation plan update has not been adopted yet as it is still in draft form. County transportation planners hope to have it adopted in March.
The current transportation plan has up to $470 million in projects up to the year 2030. The new plan would go out to 2040, still allowing the same projects but would also include new projects and would have a total of about $660 million in projects.
“When it comes to funding, it’s not a drop in the bucket,” said Edwards. “It’s going to take 30 years to get done because funding is scarce on the federal and state level.”
“We are very thankful on the local level for our” Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax program, Edwards said. “The public-private partnerships are critical and I can’t state that enough.”
“Right now we’re working on the final design of the Poplar Road interchange. After that, we’ll have to move into the right-of-way phase, which will take another year. Our consultants are looking at late 2017, early 2018 for completion,” said Edwards. “So, it’s close. It’s within reach.”
One of the greatest determinations of transportation needs is the total population and population densities of areas around the county, Edwards said. Coweta has historically had a more rural, agricultural based economy and community structure, but this has drastically changed toward urban over the last few decades.
“ARC (Atlanta Regional Commission) forecasts for 2040 show Coweta at nearly 250,000 in population, which equates to a 95 percent increase above the 2010 population of 127,317,” said Edwards.
U.S. Census Bureau estimates show Coweta’s 2012 population at 130,929 — the latest estimate available.
“According to ARC projections, population and employment densities will likely continue to grow in the central and northeastern portion of Coweta while the southern and western portion remains less populous,” Edwards said.
In 2010, Coweta’s population density was 511 people per square mile in the central and northeastern portions, while the rural areas to the west and south had a density of 90 people per square mile.
“We want population to concentrate in the areas where there is currently more development and growth and to keep the western and southern parts as rural as possible,” said Edwards.
On the employment front, Edwards noted that since 2000 Coweta’s employment growth has been significantly reduced in comparison to the 1990-2000 growth and has not kept pace with the current population growth.
“Discussions with county staff indicate the expectation for more aggressive employment growth in coming years, reflecting the county's ongoing efforts to promote additional economic development, particularly in the medical and education sectors,” Edwards said.
“This is still a joint plan. Our vision statement technically remains the same. It was just tweaked a little bit in order to bring out the economic development component,” said Edwards. “As we are becoming a medical destination here in Coweta County, there are a lot of other industries that are moving here. So, with the recession, we want to emphasize that push to increase our economic development aspect.”
The transportation plan update is currently available on the Coweta County’s website.