Fleisch ‘wait and see’ on new 54W traffic light
Dienhart contends 6th light in the tiny stretch of highway will make traffic worse
With the development of a RaceTrac gas station underway on Ga. Highway 54 West, and a Chick-fil-A under consideration immediately next door, Councilman George Dienhart has proposed closure of the median cut at that intersection to prevent a sixth traffic light on the highway at Line Creek Drive.
Council deadlocked 2-2 on the concept at its April 18, positioning Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch as the tie-breaking vote on the proposal; she was absent from the meeting due to a death in the family.
Westbound traffic on Hwy. 54 is usually so bad that it backs up as far as City Hall during weekday afternoon commute times, and also at other times on the weekends.
Mayor Don Haddix supported Dienhart’s proposal, but council members Kim Learnard and Eric Imker were against it. Learnard said she wanted to work with the developer to see if the plan can be approved. Imker said he feared the city would be sued over the matter, since the city attorney saying the city wouldn’t be liable because the final decision rests with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Fleisch told The Citizen Monday that she will reserve her decision on the matter after a new traffic study of the area is completed. A traffic study conducted five years ago on behalf of the developer showed that “closing the median would actually make the situation worse, as vehicles would make U-turns at Planterra Way which would increase delays,” Fleisch said.
“Now that we have two out-parcels that are being developed, I think the bigger question should be what will make the development itself better,” Fleisch said. “Should it be developed with ‘B-class’ retailers with more out-parcels like Lexington Circle and south 74’s development with Autozone, or should we try to get an ‘A-class’ retail establishment for that area.”
Dienhart, in his presentation to council several weeks ago, said the stretch of five traffic lights already along Hwy. 54 West “create a choke point going through the city.”
Dienhart said its time for the city to embrace the concept of “do no harm” by making every effort to prevent the sixth traffic light.
“I think we need to be true to our word as government and honest with the citizens about what we are going to do,” Dienhart said. “... It’s up to us, not up to the developers.”
As any westbound commuter can attest, once the final traffic light is passed at Hwy. 54 and MacDuff Parkway and drivers cross into Coweta County, traffic suddenly seems to improve again, unrestricted by the conglomeration of lights they just passed in Peachtree City.
Dienhart also wants council to oppose allowing the shopping center developer to link an access road to Planterra Way. A handful of residents have told council they don’t want that access road for fear of increasing traffic cutting through the subdivision.
Should DOT allow for the median to be closed, some work would be necessary to modify the intersection because it currently has two fairly lengthy turn lanes in each direction.
At the May 18 council meeting, Haddix agreed with Dienhart that “the traffic light is a disaster.”
Haddix noted that while the DOT initially granted a traffic light permit for the intersection back when the development was proposed as the “Line Creek Shopping Center,” DOT later withdrew the permit when the development never came to fruition.
Haddix said he preferred working with DOT to create a way for Fischer Road in Coweta County to access the interstate, which he thinks would eliminate much of the traffic along Hwy. 54 West.
Note: story corrected to reflect Fleisch's position that eliminating the median cut would increase delays due to vehicles U-turning on Planterra Way.