New fixes for PTC 54W traffic snarl?

New intersections would allow ‘continuous flow’ for westbound traffic, but 6 lanes are needed

Converting two intersections along traffic-choked Ga. Highway 54 West in Peachtree City could be a key solution in improving the afternoon westbound clog of cars stretching back to Willowbend Road.

The “continuous green T” intersections would allow westbound traffic to flow through without stopping, as side-street traffic would be limited by a right-in, right-out access for southbound vehicles and a stacking lane for northbound vehicles turning left to go west, according to the city’s consulting traffic engineering firm.

While the eastbound traffic on Hwy. 54 would have to stop for the signal to allow cars exiting from the south to turn left, those left-turning cars would have to stack into a merging lane and wait for an opening to get into the westbound lanes on the highway, Pond and Company Director of Transportation Richard Fangmann told the city council Monday night.

The changes were proposed for the intersection serving The Avenue and Marketplace shopping centers, and also Line Creek Drive where The Overlook shopping center has been approved by the city. Westbound traffic would still have to stop, however, at the Huddleston Road intersection in-between those lights.

The recommendations came from a $70,000 study approved by council in January to investigate ways to improve traffic on Hwy. 54.

Because there is no need for land acquisition, the continuous green T intersections could be built in about “a couple of months” by Fangmann’s estimation. Much of the change would occur by razing and reconstructing parts of the median, he said.

Since one of the intersection changes would affect the Marketplace shopping center, Pond proposed adding a stoplight on Ga. Highway 74, north of the Hwy. 54 intersection, to offer better access for both Marketplace and the Westpark Walk shopping center. Like Marketplace, Westpark stands to lose a full-movement intersection on Hwy. 54 that would be converted to a right-in, right-out as well.

Pond also suggested adding a second left turn lane southbound on MacDuff Parkway and lengthening the existing left turn lane which is far too short.

Yet another recommendation was to add a second northbound left turn lane leaving Planterra Way, but that was met with concern from Imker and residents of the Planterra Ridge subdivision about “encouraging” more cut through traffic instead of discouraging it. Fangmann said the timing of the light could be changed in an effort to discourage cut-through traffic.

The study also recommended against a connection from the Overlook shopping center to Planterra Way, but instead building a road linking from Overlook to the MacDuff Crossing shopping center instead to provide interparcel connectivity and keep some cars off Hwy. 54.

Another proposal would add a second left turn lane going northbound from Huddleston Drive, as the steep grade of the hill on that road also slows traffic down in the area, Fangmann said.

It was noted that the developer of the Overlook shopping center likes the new continuous green T intersection and is willing to fund its implementation. Beyond that, Councilman Eric Imker said the overall price of all the various short-term fixes is palatable at roughly $1 million total.

But by 2040 all those fixes won’t be near enough, as the traffic count along Hwy. 54 is expected to increase from the existing 36,000 vehicles a day to 60,000, Fangmann reported. That’s why Pond is recommending the road be widened to six lanes, which will require coordination with the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Fayette County Commission to line up federal funding.

Also in the distant future it will be worth looking at changes to the intersection of Hwy. 54 and 74 itself, perhaps including a grade separation, though it’s premature at this point to have a concrete recommendation, Fangmann added.

Imker took a jab at the Fayette County Commission, saying it would be nice if the city had federal funding now for the Hwy. 54 improvements instead of seeing the money spent out of county.

“I remind everybody that this is in our county and not outside our county,” Imker said.

Imker was vaguely referring to a decision from the commission recently to pool its federal funding for several projects to contribute toward the modification of the Interstate 85 interchange with Ga. Highway 74 in Fairburn, which is a significant choke point for city commuters heading into Atlanta and beyond.

The bridge over the CSX railroad tracks would accommodate six lanes of traffic, though it would be tight, said Pond Director of Transportation Planning Richard Fangmann, who presented the suggestions to council Monday night.

Much of the reason for the glut of traffic is the lack of east-west connectivity with Coweta County, as Castlewood Road is the nearest such connection about 5.5 miles to the north and Rockaway Road is the nearest such connection to the south about 6 miles away from Hwy. 54, Fangmann explained.