Chamber hears about transportation needsBy ALEX MCRAE
The July 31 vote to determine the fate of a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) has dominated statewide transportation talk recently, but Coweta County’s 20-year Transportation Plan was the topic of discussion at Tuesday’s Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce Early Bird Forum.
The program at the Central Educational Center in Newnan highlighted county transportation programs — which are funded locally and remain ongoing regardless of TSPLOST funding. Presenting the program were Coweta County Administrator Theron Gay and county Transportation Planner Tavores Edwards.
Gay said that in 2004 work began to establish a comprehensive plan that would anticipate future needs, identify potential funding sources and be flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions in the economic climate.
Gay pointed out that project was highlighted by not just professional research, but public input. That process is described in the Coweta County website to which Gay referred Tuesday. There it says:
“Coweta County has completed its first ever Joint Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for the county and the municipalities of Grantville, Haralson, Moreland, Newnan, Senoia, Sharpsburg, and Turin. The Coweta County Joint CTP includes a package of transportation projects and strategies to relieve congestion and improve mobility through the year 2030. Meaningful public input was received in the development of the CTP through the community visioning process coordinated with the 2026 Comprehensive Plan process that included the “Be Something Different” community survey as well as eleven (11) community visioning workshops held throughout the county in early 2005, an Open House meeting held in October 2005, and a Joint CTP Public Meeting held in April 2006 outlining the recommendations of the draft plan.”
The plan showed a 20-year budget for projected transportation projects of $408 million. Current funding sources, including $66.9 million from existing SPLOST (not TSPLOST) funds amount to $166 million.
Gay noted that Coweta County has about 900 miles of paved roads that must be constantly maintained and improved, taking a substantial portion of the county transportation budget. He said those projects also continue regardless of TSPLOST funding.
Gay noted that the biggest project on the county’s transportation agenda is the construction of the I-85 interchange at Poplar Road adjacent to the new Piedmont Newnan Hospital. Funding for that project is already in place, Gay said, and design and engineering work is ongoing.
Gay said many people felt the interchange was pushed because the hospital chose to locate there, but said it was the other way around.
“The hospital chose that location because that interchange project had been in the works for years and they knew that was the best location,” Gay said. Gay said construction on the interchange could begin within 24 to 30 months
Gay introduced Coweta County Transportation Planner Tavores Edwards, who provided more information about current and future projects. Edwards spoke of the importance of having cooperation from county municipalities in planning and budgeting for transportation projects. He said the current plan grew in part out of information from a series of “Visioning” meetings held in 2005 during the “Be Something Different” visioning effort.
“We had meetings and did surveys and the input was tremendous,” Edwards said. “The input was very valuable.”
Edwards said future projects included bike paths, increased freight mobility, better access management and improved parking.
The 2012 transportation plan update was then presented. Activities will begin in fall 2012 and include projects conducted jointly between the county and six municipalities. Edwards said that part of the update was reassessing current plans, funding sources and priorities to make sure that planning always reflects current growth and demographic trends.
Gay said one of the most important transportation projects going forward is construction of a new exit on Interstate 85 at Amlajack Boulevard, between Highway 34/ Bullsboro Drive and Highway 154/ McCollum-Sharpsburg Road. The new exit, which is still years off, would connect all three county industrial parks and relieve truck traffic from U.S. 29 and State Highway 34, Gay said.