Cobb County cuts ribbon on road that illustrates small, regionally significant, projects in proposed sales tax

By David Pendered

A small but regionally significant new road that Cobb County officials opened in a ceremony Wednesday morning illustrates the type of congestion relief advocates expect of the proposed transportation sales tax.

Tiger in the back seat

The tiger mascot from the old Esso commercials came along for a ride in a classic car during the opening ceremony of Big Shanty Road extension. Credit: Donita Newton

The new road is called the Big Shanty Road extension and the problem it solves is all too familiar in metro Atlanta – the barrier of a big road. In this case, the big road is I-75 and its construction in the mid 1970s severed old Big Shanty Road.

The project list of the proposed 1 percent sales tax is peppered with projects like the Big Shanty extension. This is one reason advocates have had such a hard time explaining how the entire region will benefit from a collection of smaller projects.

“This project doesn’t benefit just Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw or Cobb County,” Tad Leithead, chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said in his remarks at the road’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “It will benefit the entire region, because the entire region will benefit from traffic relief.

“On July 31, we have an opportunity to provide money to highly motivated people [who could provide transportation solutions] that will have the same impact on the region that this project does,” Leithead said.

Tad Leithead at Cobb County ribbon cutting

ARC Chairman Tad Leithead said the Big Shanty Road extension in Cobb County is the type of project that’s both locally important and regionally significant, and could be built in other areas if the proposed transportation sales tax is approved. Credit: Donita Newton

When I-75 was built across Cobb County, the closing of Big Shanty Road was an acceptable exchange for the access and prosperity the highway promised.

Twenty years later, the traffic was unbearable on two nearby roads that did cross I-75 – Chastain Road and Barrett Parkway. The solution was to reconnect Big Shanty Road, and the new $26 million, four-lane road stretches two miles and includes an adjacent multi-use trail that passes the new, 8,300-seat Kennesaw State University soccer stadium used by the Atlanta Beat professional women’s soccer team.

The theme of the ribbon cutting ceremony was the ’70s, the era when Big Shanty Road ended its former life. A dozen or so classic cars were rounded up to parade along the new road, just as they may have done on the original Big Shanty Road.

The Big Shanty Road extension will bisect a set of roads that form a parallelogram. U.S 41 and I-75/I-575 run basically north and south, and Chastain Road and Barrett Parkway run east and west.

The new Big Shanty Road extension cuts across the top right of this parallelogram. By tying Chastain Road into old Big Shanty, drivers will be able to continue east across I-575 to reach a third popular road that runs north and south – Bells Ferry Road.

The project was the brainchild of the Town Center Community Improvement District, which helped pay for the project. Other partners included Cobb County, state Department of Transportation, the federal stimulus package, and the State Road and Tollway Authoerity.

“Cooperation and partnership accomplished this,” said Jeff Lewis, the state DOT board member for the 11th District. “This is a great day for this area, for relieving congestion and connecting points.”

Big Shanty Road extension

Big Shanty Road extension. Credit: Mapquest.com, David Pendered

Daniel Papp, president of Kennesaw State University, predicted in his remarks that the new road will benefit students and the surrounding region.

Papp said the half-mile drive from campus to I-75 can take a half-hour because of gridlock on Chastain Road. The new road will provide an alternative route to the highway, and also to the new sports complex.

Gina Evans, SRTA’s executive director, noted that the new road provides easy access to a park and ride lot. SRTA provided $1.75 million to the project.

Voters in the transportation sales tax referendum could take a look at their communities and see value in their version of the Big Shanty Extension.

Here are two examples of locally significant projects:

  • Rockdale County – Commerce Crossing, a new $25.9 million alignment and overpass atop I-20, from Old Salem Road to Old Covington Highway. According to the project description at www.transformmetroatlanta.com, the project will: “Construct a non‐access bridge over I‐20 to greatly improve connectivity the City of Conyers’ major commercial activity center with areas south of I‐20. In doing so, it help relieve the severe congestion at the SR 138 / SR 20 interchange with I‐20 (Exit 82). SR 138 / SR 20 is designated as a Regional Thoroughfare and a Regional Truck Route. The hotel and commercial activity center just north of I‐ 20, with major anchor stores such as Walmart, Home Depot and Kohls, is currently accessed via the intersection of SR 138 and Dogwood Drive, which is just 800 feet north of I‐20. The proximity of the Dogwood drive intersection to the I‐20 access ramps leads to severe congestion and the highest accident rate of any intersection in the county. The section of SR 138 in the vicinity of the interchange experiences an annual average of over 120 crashes (of which about 22 result in injuries) according to the Critical Analysis Reporting Environment (CARE) crash data system.”
  • Fayette County – East Fayetteville Bypass, a $14 million segment that will provide new alignment and widening from Ga. 54 to Ga. 85. According to the project description at www.transformmetroatlanta.com, the project: “Is one of two segments, totaling 6.2 miles, which comprise the East Fayetteville Bypass. Segment 2, the northern section, is 2.0 miles long and is predominantly a corridor improvement project along existing Corinth Road. The project extends from the intersection of Corinth Road and SR 54 north to the intersection of Corinth Road and Ga. 85. Approximately 0.3 miles of the project is within Clayton County. Changes to Corinth Road include minor realignments, horizontal and vertical curve improvements, shoulder widening, drainage improvements, access management, and intersection optimization. The project scope includes acquisition of 120-foot wide right‐of‐way to accommodate potential future widening of the bypass. The purpose of the project is to improve north/south connectivity through Fayette County and provide network options around downtown Fayetteville. Doing so will ease existing congestion problems in Fayetteville and, subsequently, improve safety at several problematic intersections. The project will serve residents of Fayette, Clayton and Spalding Counties and is expected to carry heavy commuter traffic to and from the Atlanta area, including the airport. The project is in PLAN 2040, is a Regional Strategic Thoroughfare System (RSTS) future alignment, and is supported by the Southern Regional Accessibility Study and Fayette County’s 2003 and 2010 Comprehensive Transportation Plans. The project complements the East Fayetteville Bypass, Segment 1 (TIA‐FA‐003). Design work is already underway. ARC regional travel demand model calculations indicate that the completed project will reduce congestion along McDonough Road by 9 percent compared to future conditions without the project.”
Big Shanty Road extension, with classic cars

A parade of classic cars helped celebrate the ribbon cutting of Big Shanty Road extension in north Cobb County. Credit: Donita Newton

Fly Ride
Fly rides including this one formed a parade of classic cars that joined in the ceremonial opening of Big Shanty Road extension. Credit: Donita Newton

'70s kitch
A table filled with ’70s kitch helped round out the theme of the era when Big Shanty Road continued west of what now is the I-75 corridor. Credit: Donita Newton

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

7 replies
  1. guest says:

    The poor Big Shanty; cast aside for an interchange a whole half-mile distant.
     
    What a fanciful tale!Big Shanty’s big day comes when we spend an additional $1,000,000,000 on managed lanes.
     
    Is it the managed lane access to I-75 which Papp is thinking of?  Or has someone confused this with the Busbee Frey Connector which Cobb claims as “providing improvements to the congested Chastain Road corridor” (from TIA‐CO‐001) on our list of “regionally significant” projects.  (Vote NO, or add another $19,000,000 for that.)
     
    A better story could look at the problems that come with using an interstate highway as a local development corridor.Report

    Reply
  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    The citation of the East Fayetteville Bypass as a regionally significant project that is a reason why the residents of Fayette County should vote for the T-SPLOST is a prime example of just how totally and completely out-of-touch those who are pushing this fatally-flawed initiative are.
     
    The East Fayetteville Bypass is a very controversial roadbuilding project that is extremely-unpopular within some quarters of the Fayette County community.
     
    Fayette County often tends to side against road expansion projects that are purely for economic development purposes and has traditionally been somewhat averse to the kind of overdevelopment that is a very prominent feature of other parts of the metro area out of fear that it will push the county from its preferred somewhat exurban nature into something that is much more suburban or even more urban in nature as has already happened to many other counties in the metro area.Report

    Reply
  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Citing possible funding of the East Fayetteville Bypass as a reason why tax-averse residents of roadbuilding and overdevelopment-averse Fayette County should be inclined to support this inane T-SPLOST initiative is somewhat emblematic of what is wrong with this entire forced regional attempt at transportation and economic development funding.
     
    Exurban Fayette County residents were never going to vote to raise their taxes to fund both a roadbuilding project that many of them don’t like all that much in their own county in the East Fayetteville Bypass, but also projects that the vast majority of Fayette residents absolutely hate and despise in urban Fulton and DeKalb counties in MARTA rehab and the Atlanta Beltline.
     
    Just like a very strong majority of transit-hungry urbanites in Fulton and DeKalb counties and Inside-the-Perimeter were never going to vote to raise their own taxes to fund the construction of a new freeway far Outside-the-Perimeter in the abandoned right-of-way of the much-hated Northern Arc, a cancelled suburban freeway that Intowners hate with a passion and helped to lead the fight to defeat a decade ago.
     
    It is examples like those that are why this thing has been struggling in recent weeks (…Asking highly tax-averse exurbanites in Fayette and Cherokee counties to raise their taxes to fund maintenance for MARTA?  Really???….Asking highly roadbuilding-averse urbanites in Fulton and DeKalb counties who are hungry for dramatic transit upgrades to raise their own taxes to fund road construction projects in the distant suburbs including a new freeway in the abandoned right-of-way of the much-despised Northern Arc?  Really??  SERIOUSLY???? 
     
    Did the people who authored and are pushing this thing even listen to how completely and incredibly ridiculous that sounds?  Conservative OTPers voting for MARTA?  Liberal Intowners voting for what they presume is a resurrection of the Northern Arc?
    Say those two things multiple times and one will realize just how completely D.O.A. (Dead On Arrival) this thing really was from the time that it was conceptualized.  Report

    Reply
  4. Ready2Drive says:

    We need to continue to work on ways to improve the city of Atlanta’s traffic congestion issues.  Although this is a small project it goes to show how other projects can be put in place around the city.  Improving the region as a whole will allow residents to be able to get to work and back home more efficiently.  No this plan is not perfect but it is the best plan set forth to solve the transportation issues of the city.Report

    Reply
    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

       @Ready2Drive
       Um, uh, Mr. or Mrs. Automated Scripted Message, Big Shanty Road is not in the City of Atlanta, Big Shanty Road is located in Cobb County approximately 13 miles outside of the corporate limits of the City of Atlanta.
       
      There’s nothing wrong with improving the obviously needy transportation network of the Atlanta Region, but approving and arranging funding for transportation projects like the Big Shanty Road extension is NOT the responsibility of the voters of the region.
       
      Approving and arranging funding for projects like the county-maintained Big Shanty Road that cut a path through the right-of-way of an Interstate highway are the joint responsibilty of both the State of Georgia and Cobb County.
       
      It’s not the responsibility of transit-starved voters in the City of Atlanta to raise their own already very high taxes to pay for road projects in Cobb County, just like it is not the responsibility of voters in Cobb County to raise their own taxes to pay for economic development projects in the City of Atlanta, no matter how good the concepts for those projects may actually be.
       
      The problem is that not only is this T-SPLOST scheme not perfect, but the problem is also that is likely the best, and ONLY plan that will be set forth to address the transportation issues of the Atlanta Region by a seemingly indifferent Georgia Legislature who could care less whether or not the state’s cash-cow Atlanta Region literally chokes to death on its own severe traffic congestion and transportation mobility issues.Report

      Reply

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