Partial cloverleaf now favored for Hwy. 74-I-85 interchange

Every motorist using the Ga. Highway 74 exit at Interstate 85 knows that traffic congestion is an unfortunate way of life. And while plans to mitigate that congestion have been in place for some time, some relief may be in sight.

It appears that the potential for installing a partial cloverleaf rather than modifying the intersection using a diverging diamond might be in the offing once work is approved in the coming years.

The diverging diamond concept, one where lanes along Hwy. 74 will begin to flip-flop on either side of the I-85 bridge, was the least costly of the two options and had been, for some, the way to go until the 10-year regional transportation sales tax failed last year.

The Fairburn City Council earlier this month learned that the Interchange Modification Report (IMR) study by Norcross-based TranSystems has determined that stakeholders prefer the partial cloverleaf design to the less costly and less effective diverging diamond solution, according to a change order document furnished to the council.

The partial cloverleaf design would add a one-lane loop ramp in the northeast quadrant of the interchange and a two-lane loop ramp in the southwest quadrant, thus eliminating the traffic signal for southbound traffic on Hwy. 74, according to TransSystems.

Another aspect of the project would have the I-85 bridge widened or replaced. Yet another component of the project would have Hwy. 74 widened to four northbound and southbound lanes along Hwy. 74 from I-85 to the Meadow Glen Parkway/Harris Road area and widened to three lanes in each direction from the Meadow Glen Parkway/Harris Road area to Milam Road.

As bad as traffic is today, the need to address the interchange and surrounding area is evident in the traffic predictions for the heavily-used roadway on the south side of the interchange used by many on Fairburn’s south side and many more traveling to and from Fayette County.

Average daily traffic flow in 2011 showed 43,800 vehicles traveling to and from the south side of I-85 and 17,400 traveling to and from the north side of I-85. Those numbers are projected to increase to 58,460 and 22,240, respectively, by 2020 and to 91,840 and 35,380, respectively, by 2040.

As for funding for the eventual project, and coming primarily from federal funds, engineering, right-of-way acquisition and construction of the diverging diamond plan would cost approximately $28.2 million while the partial cloverleaf would cost $32.2 million.

As for the time frames involved, current projections show right-of-way acquisition in 2018, final construction plans completed in 2019 and construction for the two-year project beginning in 2020.

The $41,000 change order, funded by Fairburn and the South Fulton Community Improvement District will complete the I-85 bridge evaluation and provide pre-design work for the project, according to Fairburn city engineer Troy Besseche, who added that the Ga. Dept. of Transportation has authorized the initiation of the concept report and bridge evaluation and is recommending that work begin immediately.