Fairburn hopes $1.4M parking lot will soothe Ga. 74 traffic woes

The city of Fairburn and the South Fulton Community Improvement District recently reached an agreement to spend $1.47 million building a park and ride lot near the busy intersection of Ga. 74 and I-85.

Officials in Fulton County know Ga. 74 at I-85 is often a traffic mess and it’s only getting worse.

That’s why the city of Fairburn and the South Fulton Community Improvement District recently reached an agreement to spend $1.47 million building a park and ride lot in hopes of eventually getting a MARTA bus stop to help get people to work.

Lester Thompson, deputy director of public works for Fairburn, said the 200-spot lot will be at 8100 Senoia Road, less than a mile from the busy Ga.74/I-85 interchange.

He said the lot is needed because of the clogged roads and problems with illegal parking in the area. Thompson said people have been creating “makeshift park and ride locations” at parking lots of a nearby Chick-fil-A and Wingate Hotel along with the roads behind a Starbucks and a QuikTrip.

The South Fulton CID will reimburse Fairburn the majority, $1.1 million, of the price tag. The rest — about $374,000 — will come out of the city’s general fund, with $40,000 of that from the city’s tree fund to pay for the landscaping.

For years, leaders have been studying how to improve the commercial corridor that represents the starting or ending point in a complex freight system.

“We’re going to try and control the growth to attract quality development,” a Fairburn city planner told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1998, when the city had two sit-down restaurants. “City leaders said they don’t want the undeveloped corridor to become an unattractive stretch of industrial development.”

Joddie Gray, who now runs the CID, said any way to reduce commuter traffic is needed, as the area is often choked with trucks from warehouses, factories and switching centers on or near Oakley Industrial Boulevard.

She said CID — which covers mostly Fairburn but also Palmetto, Union City and the city of South Fulton — is preparing for an influx of people to the southern part of the county.

“You can tell by the amount of vacant land in the area that development will be occurring,” she said. “We’re trying a little bit to play catch-up.”

It seems the Georgia Department of Transportation agrees.

This park and ride lot comes a few years ahead of a project to overhaul the Ga.74/I-85 interchange for $74 million, according to a January estimate from GDOT. The new interchange and the lot would both greatly impact Fayette County drivers.

Officials said the lot would encourage carpooling and, if MARTA sees it being used, officials hope the lot would get a bus stop to help move people around the industrial area once they’re parked.

Thompson said Fairburn thinks the lot will increase business to places people visit before and after their commutes like gas stations, quick-stop shops and restaurants.

He said a local developer gifted the property to Fairburn in 2015. The 3.69 acres isn’t exactly the most desirable property, Thompson said, because it has several Georgia Power transmission lines running overhead.

He said city staff considered making it parkland but the power lines and traffic problems made them reconsider.

Work on the site has not begun, but Thompson said construction of the lot is expected to take about nine months and he said it should be done in either December 2019 or January 2020 depending on weather.