OPINION: What you haven’t been told about DOT’s ‘fix’ for Hwy. 54-74


I think we can all agree that if the government extracts money from our checking accounts via taxes and fees that we should at the very least be able to call for the funds to be used productively and for the benefit of the citizenry.

In my past government positions, I made it publicly clear that you should never trust government and that government officials should have to justify every decision made in their official capacity.

Peachtree City Mayor Kim Learnard recently gave the warning that the Highways 74 and 54 intersection is about to get a lot worse over a 30-month period.

Beware of state agencies bearing gifts

Be careful when the state comes knocking on your door with an unsolicited plan.

Several years ago, GDOT introduced the intersection project at the county government’s transportation committee meeting. I was present at the meeting and challenged the GDOT engineer on the effectiveness of the proposal.

It was immediately clear that the low-budget project proposal did zilch to resolve the core congestion issue with east-west traffic.

It was revealed in the committee meeting by the GDOT engineer that the project was “budget constrained,” meaning they had some funds remaining in an account and the plan was designed to the budget, not toward a long-term solution. GDOT is going to require the city to spend our city tax dollars on the boondoggle as well.

The city’s own hand-picked representative to the county’s transportation committee was present for the remarks from GDOT. The city has known this for several years.

We are getting the loose change that GDOT found under their budget constrained sofa cushions left over from other projects, and not an appropriately funded, legitimate solution.

GDOT’s own material says, “Traffic patterns for those coming from Hwy. 54 will not change.” We are smart enough in Peachtree City to comprehend what “will not change” means. (See: https://thecitizen.com/2023/01/23/councils-hwy-54-74-decision-a-traffic-boondoggle-for-peachtree-city/).

If the displaced left turn lanes on Highway 74 (a design used mainly as a “divergent diamond” for interstate interchanges that have grade separations) does not relieve the congestion burden, especially the east-west bottleneck, will GDOT come running with more money to remedy the situation? Do not count on it.

Mayor Kim Learnard’s excuse

Learnard is attempting to prepare the citizens for the upcoming road construction circus. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) wants to build displaced left turn lanes on Highway 74 at the intersection of Highways 74 and 54.

“GDOT is paying for this [work] and I expect construction to begin in spring of 2024,” Mayor Learnard said, “and GDOT shared that they expected this to be a 30-month project.” That would put completion of the reconstructed intersection sometime in 2026 (see: https://thecitizen.com/2023/09/26/54-74-intersection-makeover-will-start-next-year-mayor-learnard-says/).

Both Learnard and her predecessor Vanessa Fleisch have leaned-in on the project as a means to quell the masses’ frustration regarding traffic congestion. Unfortunately, both Learnard and Fleisch are quick to lay the responsibility for the project at the feet of GDOT because the project does not really solve the core issue hindering traffic, that being the east-west traffic flow. It should help with cars “blocking the box” some but not much more.

I can assure you that the mayor will take no responsibility whatsoever if the 30-months of road construction agony we are about to endure does not produce any significant results. She will just blame GDOT. She will claim the Fleisch administration agreed to the project, not her, even though she could have stopped it and pressed for a real solution.

It is the mayor’s job to battle on behalf of the city for the best solution. It means doing your homework and not taking ‘no’ for an answer.

Hurling our chances away

Only one member of the city council has objected to GDOT’s intersection plan: Clint Holland. Holland has lived up to his campaign promises and pushed for a more long-term solution.

Other members of the city council decry the tens of millions of dollars required for a long-term solution to the intersection congestion.

First, the two highways belong to the state government, and they should cover the bulk of the cost as they do in other counties across the state. Likewise, any additional matching funds from the city could be bonded over decades with the debt service programmed and covered by annual payments from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue.

Using the financial tools that the state provides, local jurisdictions have ample opportunities to commit to a viable long-term transportation solutions.

Learnard insists on private meetings with GDOT at the Thomaston, Georgia office. She keeps most of the details of those meetings hidden from the public. Why would she do that?

Learnard refuses to request that GDOT engineers attend a local city council meeting to answer questions from the council members and the general taxpaying public. Why would she do that?

Not knowing how to play the game

Peachtree City has a failing grade on understanding how the system works and how to use political leverage.

When I was the mayor years ago, I worked with a team of people to secure Regional and GDOT funding for the widening of Highway 54 West, widening of Highway 74 South, new multi-use path tunnels under the highways, and new golf cart bridges over railroad tracks and highways. This was accomplished by researching how other metro counties were able to secure their funding for projects.

I was directly engaged in soliciting assistance from the transportation engineering staff at the Atlanta Regional Commission, the regional government. I met with the GDOT Commissioner and many senior GDOT staff members requesting assistance and pleading the city’s case.

Most importantly, I operated with a coalition of various elected officials to leverage our political capacity at every level. Then-Fayette County Commission Chairman Greg Dunn was helpful with the Atlanta Regional Commission. Then-State Senator Mitch Seabaugh helped leverage our projects with GDOT and state planning. Then-Congressman Lynn Westmoreland assisted with his contacts in the state government. Then-State Representative Dan Lakly wrote letters of support.

And let’s destroy the myth that you must have a close relationship with the other officials to get their assistance. Sen. Seabaugh and I were not fond of one another but we did what needed to be done for the benefit of our constituents.

As the chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, I worked with Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial and then-State Representative Matt Ramsey to get a long-term solution on the books for the interchange at Highway 74 and I-85. We fought to get the best plan, not the cheapest. Staff from the Atlanta Regional Commission gave us valuable data and helped us identify state funding.

I also went to GDOT Planning Director Toby Carr’s office every other week to fight for the project. Eventually, we got the improved plan for the interchange and $18 million allocated towards right-of-way acquisition and engineering.

The chairman who followed me refused to keep leveraging the interchange project and GDOT began slow walking the project. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and the county government stopped squeaking.

Such coalitions have not existed to propel city transportation projects for 10 to 15 years, at least. The city has little or no clout with the regional and state governments, and it shows. The best they can do is closed door meetings with the District Engineer in the rural Thomaston GDOT office.

The sad consequences

When the upcoming project cannot reduce the east-west traffic congestion, should we expect GDOT to come with more money and a better project? Do not expect anything for a good long while after they just spent 30-months constructing the “budget constrained” project.

To expect GDOT to rip up new construction to implement a better solution in the short or mid-term is inconceivable.

If Learnard tells you that the displaced left turn lanes on Highway 74 are just “phase one,” ask her to show you the phase two plan and ask when GDOT expects to implement it. There is no phase two.

Both the Fleisch and Learnard administrations had the ability to request that the small amount of funding provided by GDOT could be used towards designing and planning for a better long-term solution for the intersection. They refused to do it.

This is more proof that elections matter.

[Brown is a former mayor of Peachtree City and served two terms on the Fayette County Board of Commissioners. You can read all his columns by clicking on his photo below.]


  1. I’ve worked in PTC since 1987 and lived in Fayette County since the early 90’s, so I’ve got years of experience with the 54/74 intersection. I’ve had to wait on Turkeys to cross the road to proceed they that intersection. I’ve seen ALL the growth (with no foresight) and the increase in traffic.

    Steve’s right… in what world does a left hand turn lane fix anything. The problem is that “cluster” from Huddleston headed West on 54. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it won’t help.

    When Steve was in office I absolutely abhorred him. I thought he was an arrogant know it all and was against any growth in PTC. Now that I’m older, I see how wrong I was. We could use a few more Steve Brown’s in politics.

  2. Kim Leonard ran on ‘NOT’ building up PTC and fixing the traffic problem on the 54-74, bless her heart!

    The democrats in PTC are well organized. They have their own ‘Democrats of PTC’ Facebook page.

    The moral of this story is if you’re happy with the ideology of the Democrats then keep voting them up and PTC will become a city embedded with that ideology. The quaint city we once new is slowly disappearing or have you on the left and Right not noticed?

    Yes, be very careful who you vote for in November and I suggest that the republicans, conservatives or traditional voters get their game together or PTC will be overrun by these people in power with Democrat ideology.

    Look around, taxes are high, crime is higher than ever, it’s plain to see that the Democratic controlled PTC council is bad for all residents here.

    2021 vs 2022
    Part 1 serious crimes up 3%
    Calls for service up 12.6%
    Theft by taking: up 43%
    Fraud up 26%
    Entering auto up 29%


    And now a few messages from our local PTC well organized Democrat party.

  3. Can you please post the comment below under my latest column:

    You guys need to stop skimming these articles in the newspaper and then acting like you’ve read the thing. I’ve lived in this County since well before Steve Brown was mayor of Peachtree City. Give me the name of another local politician who’s had more success with getting Road money and projects done. He even listed in his article which projects he worked on. “When I was the mayor years ago, I worked with a team of people to secure Regional and GDOT funding for the widening of Highway 54 West, widening of Highway 74 South, new multi-use path tunnels under the highways, and new golf cart bridges over railroad tracks and highways.” Seriously now what highway improvements can you flash and Leonard lovers point to? Those of us who were around back then remember it was Steve Brown who fought the big box stores and the apartments being built on Highway 54 and he predicted the absolute cluster that we have there today. But Bob Lenox and his comrades did it anyway.

    • I just think it’s hilarious that the account claiming that someone else is faking it asks to post something under “[his] latest column” and then pretends not to be Steve Brown. One or the other isn’t true.

    • Fiona66, I moved here under Mayor Fred Brown. We live just off of 54. Seen a lot of changes on that corridor.

      Steve said widening 54 solve traffic congestion for 10 to 15 years. I told him I told him it would make it worse and it did.

      He did fight over the building stores in West Village. I supported.

      But on portions of the development he did a handshake agreement with the developer which developer violated. That is how we got stores being built right against 54 without proper landscaping.

      DOT notified notified the city they were going to widen 54. Yes, there was a lot of discussion about how they would do it. Discussion they carried over to when I was coucilman. Doug and I were stuck handling uses like sound barriers.

      We tried to replace sidewalks with car paths, but DOT said too late to change the plan.

      On 54 at the tracks we got the golf cart tunnels and asociated paths installed.

      The baseball complex I got traffic signs, etc installed. And more.

      I stopped other projects the city did not want.

      This is not a competition of did more, it is making it clear Steve is not the only one who has worked for the benefit of city.

      Fiona66, I have lived here since Mayor Fred Brown, so I have seen it all, good, bad and ugly.

      I’ll leave it at you one the name of someone that is done as much for the benefit of PTC? me.

      Ever use the tunnel as the railroad tracks on 54? Thank me.

      Like the sound walls 74? Thank me.

      Like that they have ivy on them instead of their concrete?

      Glad the extinction was never built? Thank me.

      Happy there are trees along the highway and a buffer?

    • The City went into an all out uproar when this was looked a while back. I think it would be the same today. Me, I just avoid that intersection at a couple of hours each day, or go another way if I just have to get to Newnan…I still don’t understand why people sit in traffic from the City hall when there are clearly other ways..but I also don’t understand why folks take 74N all the way to get on I-85 north either. Sheeple.

      Have you experienced these extended left turn lanes? I have in two places, they seem to help. We shall see.

    • Exactly!! I don’t understand the opposition. The way to , “solve” the problem is to get cars away from the bottleneck. People going from Newnan to Fayetteville can circumnavigate PTC. Build a road between the water plant and Planterra. Cars from Coweta County can travel on that road,
      turn right on 74, go down to GA85, and a direct shot into Fayetteville. Reverse coming home. They won’t get close to 74/54.

    • I read the article..did you expect this work to be done overnight with no delays? As usual, Steve had all the answers, he just couldn’t get any help to implement them. IF we had only listened to him in the first place…every thing would be perfect now.

      Oh, and by the way, I do know how to directly reply to a comment here.

  4. So basically you did squat in your time in office and now want to complain about others trying to make a difference..got it.

    The comedy gold with your columns never gets old.

    Cal should be embarrassed.

  5. Steve, you lose whatever little credibility you had when you post just pure ignorance like this. Displaced-left turns are used in multiple situations, including at-grade. There’s one in Dawsonville, GA where US-19 and GA-53 have an at-grade intersection. If anyone wants to check it out (or if the link doesn’t work, go to Dawsonville and look for those two highways).

    Displaced-left turns (also known as Continuous Flow Intersections) are not some new untested thing. The first one was built in 1996, over 25 years ago. Believe it or not, in those 25 years we’ve had time to analyze the performance of this kind of intersection.

    In 2004, the Transportation Research Board estimated that DLTs “helped reduce average delay 48 to 85 percent and cut queue lengths 62 to 88 percent, compared to conventional intersections.”

    Partial DLT increased throughput by 20% and reduced delays by 30-40%.

    Observed reduction in delays 30-40%.

    I think the last question is the most important: if you DON’T think the DLT will help, what would you propose? It’s easy to criticize–much harder to come up with an actual solution.