West Bypass, meet your $28 million twin, the East Bypass

The five Fayette County commissioners who campaigned against the West Fayetteville Bypass, largely on an outcry that it cost too much money, may be positioning themselves to spend a similar amount, $28 million, to build a second bypass, this time on the east side of Fayetteville.

A common refrain among the commissioners campaigning against the West Fayetteville Bypass was that the project was a “road to nowhere.”

The East Bypass, as currently proposed, might also become known by a similar moniker, given that its southern terminus is in rural Fayette County: three miles short of Ga. Highway 92 and approximately seven miles away from Ga. Highway 85 south of Fayetteville.

Another of the often-used refrains against the former commission was the lack of a traffic study showing the benefits of the West Bypass. The current commissioners find themselves in the same position over the East Bypass: No traffic study exists that provides any cost-benefit analysis of the proposal.

The 6.2-mile-long road would start along Ga. Highway 85 north of the Fayette Pavilion and largely follow the length of the existing Corinth Road to reach Ga. Highway 54 West. From there, the road would take a new path to reach the existing County Line Road and the bypass would end at the intersection of County Line, Inman and South Jeff Davis roads.

While the road’s southern end stops in rural Fayette County, it also borders directly with more dense development in Clayton County, creating the possibility that if the East Bypass is built, the majority of vehicles using it would be Clayton residents.

At the Fayette County Commission’s retreat Friday, Commission Chairman Steve Brown, who has been one of the loudest public voices against the West Bypass, said he thought the county should at least consider purchasing the land needed for the East Fayetteville Bypass because “you’ll never get land prices lower than what we’ve got them at today.”

Public Works Director Phil Mallon told the commission that the county could save significant money if it decided to handle the project exclusively with local funds instead of going through the lengthy and costly process of seeking federal aid.

Brown replied that he thinks the federal road construction methods “has become a jobs program to hire extra people” for tasks the county could handle itself.

Mallon noted if the county wants to stay positioned for federal funding, it will probably be another two years before it is in the phase where East Bypass right-of-way can be acquired.

While there is the chance of getting $12.9 million in federal funds for the East Bypass, that potential funding is parked in a “long range” plan with no concrete date for funding, Mallon added. Also, if the federal funding is sought, the commission would need another $5.8 million on top of the remaining $28 million from the transportation sales tax, just to finish the road.

However, if the commission chose to make the East Bypass a local project, Mallon said he thinks “we can deliver a similar-type project.” The county has already spent about $1.1 million on preliminary environmental studies for the East Fayetteville Bypass.

Mallon noted that the previous commission was in favor of the East Fayetteville Bypass, but he wanted to get feedback from the new commissioners.

County Administrator Steve Rapson said the matter would be ideal for the commission to hash out in a workshop meeting.