Unfair exit: Group petitions for change to proposed Third Army interchange
by By Jessica Loeding, jessica.loeding@daily-tribune.com
Jun 18, 2013 | 1856 views | 0 0 comments | 97 97 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Call it the unfair exit. Under a proposed interchange at Interstate 75 and Third Army Road, a limited access road would bridge the distance from the interstate to U.S. Highway 41, effectively cutting off Bartow County, according to one group of residents.

“Basically, what they are proposing is nothing more than an extension of 75,” Bartow County resident and founder of unfairexit.org Lonnie Cox said. “They’re going to actually put a bridge over the back of this store [Lee’s Grocery at Ga. Highway 293 at Third Army Road], knock the store down and ... it’s conglomeration of about three or four bridges that come together and when the bridges land they will be inside Cobb County.”

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation preconstruction status report, “The proposed project would construct a new, limited access roadway from existing Dabbs Bridge Road in Paulding County, through Cobb and Bartow counties, to a new interchange with I-75. The proposed new interchange with I-75 would be located approximately halfway between the bridges over Joe Stella Drive and the bridges over Lake Allatoona. The new, limited access roadway would consist of two to three lanes in each direction with a 24-foot, raised median, and would be parallel to and just north of existing Third Army Road, and would be grade-separated over Old Georgia 293/North Main Street. The new roadway would tie into U.S. 41/Cobb Parkway via a new, grade-separated intersection, with interchange-type ramps provided to and from U.S. 41/Cobb Parkway. Between U.S. 41/Cobb Parkway and I-75, the length of the proposed new road would be approximately 0.86 mile. To the west of U.S. 41, the proposed project would also include the relocation of Dabbs Bridge Road.”

The proposed project stems from a desire to provide faster interstate access to Paulding and Cobb commuters.

“This has been a Cobb County project for years now and way before the federal funds were identified for working on the scoping phase,” GDOT Project Manager Karyn Matthews said. “And the need really has been defined as finding a way to get all the commuters who are currently using State Route 92 and Cedar Crest, Glade Road, getting them to I-75 faster and trying to keep them off the residential roads as much as possible and onto more ... arterial routes that are designed to get you to the interstate.”

With a long list of needs, GDOT said finances no doubt will hamper the schedule for construction.

“What we have been sort of estimating is, if all the money were to sort of fall in our lap, it would be eight to 10 years before the project would be able to be on the ground,” Matthews said. “Right now there’s not even money identified for the engineering beyond the scoping phase that we are in right now. I know that Cobb County is hot and heavy with the [Atlanta Regional Commission] trying to find some money, and Cobb County is willing to put some of their own money toward it as well but that they don’t have the funds to finish this.”

For Cox, who owns 42 acres in the Third Army Road area, the current design offers no benefit to Bartow, instead cutting off potential for economic development along the 0.86-mile stretch.

“We think it’s unfair. We are saying if they bring it down to grade and put a stop sign right here that this area will be redeveloped. Now, you are always going to have some opposed to that,” he said, “but if you bring it to grade, ... we see commercial development, shopping centers, new commercial and residential development. We see a windfall for the county.

“If they leave it the way they’ve got it — I’m not saying it’s purposefully designed for this ... — but you can tell that Cobb County designed this with Cobb County in mind. Basically, they want to take Bartow County’s property ... in our opinion, to get the people of east Paulding and west Cobb home faster. And we are OK with that, but why shouldn’t the citizens of Bartow County benefit economically as well?”

Not only would a traditional interchange bring the potential for change, but the cost to taxpayers may be less as well, according to unfairexit.org attorney Rick Craven.

“We also believe, if we just brought an exit down to grade not only would it be cheaper for the state, it would also help to encourage economic revitalization in this area, which, I mean, quite frankly, is a little bit depressed, especially when compared to just down the road in west Cobb County or east Paulding,” he said.

Because of the plans for bridges in the area of I-75 — a diamond interchange is not possible because of the proximity to Lake Allatoona — Matthews said bringing the exit and entrance ramps to grade is not possible.

“We are looking at trying to find some ways to lessen costs and consider whether the bridge at 41 ... it’s going to provide such a benefit to the users who are just trying to get to the interstate as quickly as possible. To keep that road as high-speed as possible, it just really enhances the purpose of the project,” she said. “But, that being said, it is expensive.

“We have been talking about it and it is completely unfeasible to try to get it down at 293. The grade difference of 75 and 293 is already pretty big a difference in elevation, so if you are up on a bridge going over 75, that’s got you even higher and you just wouldn’t be able to tie it back down. What is possible is that we could tie it back down a little ways down from there and have some sort of a loop road back toward Main Street, 293. That is something that has been discussed, but we just aren’t sure that is the really part of the purpose of the project.”

Saying “no one wants to live under a bridge,” Craven said unfairexit.org hopes to inform citizens of what the project and the plan entails. “We don’t think people are really aware of what is going on.”

A public meeting on the project in March drew roughly 300 people, but no plans are in place for additional public hearings.

“It is still very early and everything is still up in the air; every option is still open and will be considered,” said Matthews, adding that the next public hearing would be at least a year away if the funds are available to keep the project moving.

But something of the interchange’s magnitude could prompt the change residents in the area long for.

“This road could really change this end of the county,” Cox said. “Once these meetings are done, that’s it. The way that they have this designed, it goes on the shelf, and it doesn’t matter if it’s six, eight, 10 [years], whenever they develop it, that’s how it’s going to be developed.

“This, if it’s done correctly, could change the face [of the area.]”

For more information on Cox’s group, visit www.unfairexit.org, www.facebook.com/unfairexit or email info@unfairexit.org. A petition is available online or inside Lee’s Grocery at Highway 293 and Third Army Road.

Drawings and plans for the proposed interchange may be found on GDOT’s website, www.dot.ga.gov.