Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the date of an Atlanta referendum.
By David Pendered
Forsyth County is quietly going about its business of building $200 million of road projects, and on Thursday commissioners discussed plans for new interchange at Ga. 400.
To keep this sum in perspective, Atlanta voters on March 17 will have a chance to cast their ballots on a proposed $252 million bond issue to improve transportation and city buildings.
In addition, Forsyth County on Monday received the highest credit rating possible from Moody’s Investors Service for an upcoming bond issue to pay for water and sewer upgrades.
Monday’s rating action is not related to the road bond, but does speak to Forsyth’s fiscal condition.
Moody’s rated Forsyth’s upcoming $75.2 million water and sewer bond issue. The sum includes $60 million for new projects, with the remainder earmarked for refinancing water/sewer bonds issued in 2005 and 2007.
The rating action states:
- “The assignment of Moody’s highest-quality rating reflects the county’s sizeable tax base and diverse economic profile, strong financial performance in recent years and large reserves, above average wealth levels, and manageable debt levels.”
Moody’s cites strengths including:
- “Ample reserves bolstered by formal policies and conservative budgeting practices;
- “Affluent customer base and proximity to Atlanta;
- “Manageable debt burden.”
Forsyth County voters embraced in November a bond referendum that mainly promised relief from traffic congestion on Ga. 400 and to widen a major east-west connector that runs toward Suwanee in Gwinnett County – McGinnis Ferry Road.
Voters approved the bond referendum by a 2:1 margin. The bond was projected to add $121 a year to the tax bill of a home valued at $250,000, according to county figures.
Forsyth County’s board of commissioners on Thursday took a major step regarding McGinnis Ferry Road by furthering the plan to build an intersection with Ga. 400.
The end result of several major projects is supposed to be the conversion of McGinnis Ferry Road from a choked roadway to a wide boulevard that is to improve travel times between Suwanee, and Ga. 400.
The future interchange is immensely significant in south Forsyth County. Currently, drivers that intend to use Ga. 400 can access the highway via Windward Parkway, or well into Forsyth County at McFarland Road.
At the time this stretch of Ga. 400 was constructed, the area was lightly populated. The interchange at McFarland Parkway and Ga. 400 more than sufficed to serve as the southern-most interchange in Forsyth County. That situation has changed during the years in which Forsyth was listed by the Census as among the fastest growing counties in the nation.
Moreland Altobelli Assoc., an engineering consultant, is on tap to complete most of the design work for the new McGinnis Ferry Road/Ga. 400 interchange. The firm is working on preliminary and final engineering plans, including the right-of-way plans, according to the commission’s agenda.
The main selling point of the bond campaign was congestion relief on Ga. 400.
A quarter of the local revenues, $43 million, is to help pay for the widening of Ga. 400 from McFarland Parkway to Bald Ridge Marina Road.
The total funding package envisions using $81 million in order to draw down a total of $93 million in state and federal funding — $20 million from the state and $73 million from federal sources, according information provided by the county.