Henry County residents say crime, gridlock top metro Atlanta issues

Traffic backups at exit 216 off I-75, which intersects with Ga. 155 in McDonough, are part of the congestion in Henry County’s distribution center corridor. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com

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Traffic backups at exit 216 off I-75, which intersects with Ga. 155 in McDonough, are part of the congestion in Henry County’s distribution center corridor. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com

Residents of Henry County, where the population has almost doubled in the past 20 years, say crime and transportation woes are the biggest issues facing metro Atlanta.

Henry respondents to the Atlanta Regional Commission's 2019 Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey were about equally worried about public safety and traffic gridlock across the 13 counties. Crime was rated as the biggest issue by 21.3 percent of respondents, compared to 20.5 percent for whom transportation tops the problem list.

But when it comes to those two issues in their own community, the residents have a different take on their impact. About 46 percent of Henry residents said the solution to metro Atlanta’s transportation congestion is improving roads and highways, compared to the 32 percent who said the focus should be on adding public transit options.

And about 58 percent of Henry residents rated safety in the county as excellent or good.

“We have an outstanding Henry County Police Department that is doing a very good job,” Stockbridge City Councilman Elton Alexander said.

Alexander attributed the differences in views about metro Atlanta crime and Henry safety to a desire by some on the southside to differentiate their community from the rest of the area.

Henry County is metro Atlanta's second fastest-growing community, and some of the findings in the survey reflect its shifting demographics.

For instance, almost 80 percent of respondents said Henry has changed in the past three to four years, with 43 percent saying the change has been significant. And about 65 percent of residents are seeing gentrification in their communities, the survey indicated, with homes being bought and remodeled to be sold or rented at higher prices.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the county, however, has been road congestion.

The county has among the largest numbers of road construction projects in progress or being planned in metro Atlanta because infrastructure improvements have not kept pace with growth, County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews has said. The county is looking for ways to provide better connections from its eastern half to its western half and seeking solutions to keep residents from using I-75 as a county thoroughfare.