54-74 Town Hall: Intersection to improve slightly for 10-15 years

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One thing is for sure, the city council of Peachtree City never fails to provide plenty to opine upon, much to our chagrin.

I give full credit to the city government for allowing a wide array of questions from the audience at the Town Hall with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The town hall, organized and run by the city clerk, was a refreshing change from the series of recent actions the city council has taken to curb free speech and public participation.

Unfortunately, neither GDOT District Three Engineer Tyler Peek nor District Three’s State Transportation Board Member Dennis McEntire attended the Town Hall gathering in Peachtree City. This meant that broader questions on project selection, district priorities, and Fayette County’s ability to garner state transportation funding could not be addressed.

Talking 74-54 intersection

The main topic was the $22 million displaced left turn project at the intersection (funding is from a “federal lump sum project”). The left turns southbound and northbound on Highway 74 will no longer cross in front of the opposing through traffic.

GDOT’s aim is to improve the capacity of the intersection and to get you through the intersection faster because of fewer traffic signal phases.

Although the displaced left-turn project centers on Highway 74 and the intersection specifically, GDOT hopes to see some improvement in the main traffic cog on Highway 54-West as well. “However, I will say this is not intended as a silver bullet to all of Peachtree City’s congestion problems, so we are aware of the congestion, of course, on [Highway] 54, specifically West of [Highway] 74,” said GDOT Traffic Engineer Daniel Trevorrow.

The Avenue obtained GDOT approval for a lane project across from Marketplace Blvd. Their entrance work is expected to be completed before any substantial construction work starts on the Highways 54-74 intersection project. Likewise, the city is creating double left turn lanes out of Huddleston Road onto Highway 54-West, but noted residents will no longer be able to drive straight across to Best Buy, Pet Smart, and the other stores from Huddleston Road.

As far as congestion relief, Trevorrow says the project “will give us probably about 10-15 years or so before you start seeing the same level of congestion [at the intersection specifically] that you see now, and so we do think that some of the neighboring projects that we have at Marketplace Blvd. and Peachtree City have at Huddleston [Road] combined with 54 and 74 [intersection] will give you an improvement, but there will certainly be a need in the future but broader projects.”

Before you get too excited, the GDOT intersection project is predicted to bring the level of service from a current grade of “F” to a “E.” Consequently, over the 10-15 years the level of service could go back to “F” quickly with rapid increases in traffic volume and we are seeing that already in Coweta County.

“What GDOT will do is we will observe the traffic flow and then we will optimize the DLT [displaced left turns] 74-54,” according to Trevorrow. “So, after completion, we will be going through that effort to retime but we certainly ask for Peachtree City’s understanding and patience that it’s not a simple flip of the switch where we can change green times. It takes quite a bit of effort but we do intend to recalibrate the whole corridor.”

Blocking the “box”

The dreaded right-hand yield turn from Highway 74-South turning onto Highway 54-West will be converted to a double-lane right-hand turn controlled by the new traffic signal. This will create another signal phase and could be another source of “blocking the box.”

When asked, “What provisions are there to stop 74-North to 54-West turn traffic from blocking the intersection [with the new displaced lanes]? Trevorrow replied, “So, much like in the current condition, in the future condition it will ultimately be enforcement and driver responsibility. There is very little that can be done to physically stop somebody from driving if they want to drive. So, it really comes down to the residents of Peachtree City to understand that in blocking the intersection they are contributing to the congestion issue. So, it really comes down to a driver responsibility and an enforcement issue.”

GDOT and the Peachtree City Police have been put undeservedly on the hot seat. Past city councils of Peachtree City are responsible for most of the horrible land planning and transportation decisions that have made the corridor a traffic disaster. Having to roll with the punches, Police Chief Janet Moon replied, “We’re gonna do the best we can.” She continued, “If you don’t block the box, it does help.”

Lane closures for construction will be in the evenings, beginning at 8:00 p.m. The city has no plan to mitigate traffic in the evenings when construction occurs.

Alternatives anyone?

An uncomfortable silence fell over the panel at the Town Hall when they were asked, “Relating to 54-74, who ultimately decided this was the best option — was it GDOT or council?” Reporting from past years had the city council saying GDOT brought the proposal to the city. A GDOT representative said it was a “collaborative effort.”

Public sentiment so far has citizens wondering why we got a budget-constrained project and not one of the “broader projects” Trevorrow referenced. Since the state is currently flush with transportation funds, we could be missing out on the perfect opportunity for a much better, longer-lasting project.

GDOT is unwilling to consider a grade separation or added lanes to the Highway 54-West corridor.

Peachtree City Engineer David Borkowski was asked if MacDuff Parkway can serve as a bypass for the 54-74 intersection congestion. He replied, “No, it’s not designed for that.” The Wilksmoor Village will go down as one of the most tragic land planning disasters in the city’s history.

GDOT admitted the Highway 54-West corridor currently “carries somewhere between 47,000 to 50,000 comes every day,” and they expect the volume to keep growing.

Good news, bad news

There is a glimmer of hope for our Fayette County commuters using the Highway 74 and I-85 Interchange.

While the chairman of the Fayette County Board of Commissioners, I pulled together a coalition to develop a solution for the grinding traffic at the interchange. With the help of Tyrone Mayor Eric Dial, then-Georgia House Representative Matt Ramsey, and the South Fulton CID, we elevated the level of the new interchange design and secured funding.

“So, the [interchange] project up there [in Fairburn] is scheduled to what we call ‘let to construction’ in August of this year. So, what that means is it’s going to be bid out to contractors in August if the project stays on schedule, and so a few months after that a contractor is awarded and you may start seeing work up there,” said Trevorrow. “So, this calendar year we’re anticipating a contractor to be on board and ready to go.”

Obviously, that is good news to see our hard work in design and planning finally coming out of the ground. Keep in mind that the project is not even in Fayette County or our GDOT District 3, but we worked together and accomplished it.

Now, for the bad news. Fairburn has built thousands of apartment units in the immediate vicinity of the interchange with more on the way. The sheer number of cars from those units could choke any benefits from our efforts.

See my interview with GDOT Traffic Engineer Daniel Trevorrow at this link: https://thecitizen.com/2024/04/22/future-of-54-74-intersection-interview-with-gdot-traffic-engineer/

[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.]

2 COMMENTS

  1. It was a well organized and needed Town Hall meeting. So kudos to our City politicians and staff who made this happen and also to GDOT for their responses, especially Daniel Treverrow who was their main spokesperson. The Left turn project and others that you mention will help but it’ll take bigger and more regional future efforts for alternate routes to reduce the volume of traffic at the 54/74 intersection.

  2. Agree with your sentiment on Wilksmoor….we had an opportunity to take traffic away from / around the 54/74 boondoggle but we sold out to developers. I wonder which council members had the brilliant foresight to not use some of that land for a northern route around PTC to alleviate 54/74?