Douglas eyes access to interstates

Atlanta Forward: The future of regional transportation

Steve Hall has good reason to support a regional sales tax for transportation.

Hall, who drives to his Atlanta business from his Douglas County farm, faces some of the metro region’s worst interstate infrastructure. Eastbound traffic on I-20 backs up for miles behind semi-trucks creeping at 10 mph on the slow-turn interchange to northbound I-285.

“That is the worst intersection in town,” said Hall, who was leaving Jenkins Barbershop, a 101-year-old family business, after a Saturday trim. “We’re getting shortchanged in Douglas County.”

Dealing with I-20 traffic isn’t just Douglas County’s problem. With a regional freight center in Austell, trucks depart through Douglas to points all over. That freight is using the interstates for what they were intended — long-distance travel — while Douglas County residents, like other metro Atlantans, are using them to get to work every day, and the roads can’t cope.

Officials are looking to the transportation referendum to improve things. With requests such as a $149 million flyover bridge to the I-20/I-285 northbound interchange, and a key road widening to handle truck traffic heading to I-20 from the Norfolk Southern Railway depot, the county’s wish list shows access to interstates is crucial — and it has shown a willingness to think regionally.

Still, Hall opposes a higher sales tax even if it would be used to correct design defects. He said county voters have already implemented two 1 percent special-purpose local-option sales taxes, one to pay for construction of a law enforcement center and another for schools. That has pushed the sales tax to 7 percent.

He also said the county seldom fares well in the division of regional transportation dollars, and folks already pay a gas tax for road projects.

Tom Connally, lunching at the Irish Bred Pub, agreed, saying, “Every time the state has done something or the Atlanta Regional Commission has done something like that, 90 percent of the money has stayed inside I-285. It is a joke.”

Commuting isn’t a problem for Connally. He has worked at the Hudson Hickory House BBQ on Broad Street for 22 years. But on his way to the barbecue pit one recent Saturday, he walked past residents from Douglas, Paulding and Cobb counties who were in town for a “Taste of Douglasville” festival, demonstrating how interwoven the region has become.

Douglas County Administrator Eric Linton said money spent inside I-285 may be just what the county needs to be a winner in the 2012 10-county transportation vote.

The flyover bridge is to the I-20/I-285 northbound interchange, which is in Fulton County, and northbound I-285 heads to Cobb, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties but serves Douglas County drivers, Linton said.

“We have a lot of people who go to the Perimeter and a lot of people who go to Cumberland Galleria,” he said. “We feel that project would be a huge boon for the region. It’s not just commuters. It is freight mobility.”

Linton said the county tried to keep its wish list regional in orientation, although the geography of most items, such as $96 million to make U.S. 78 four lanes from Cobb to Douglasville, appeared oriented toward Douglas County.

Douglasville Councilman Larry Yockey said referendum boosters have to make the benefits easy for voters to understand.

Yockey said one project, if it makes the final list, might at least have support in Douglasville. Officials hope to secure a $45 million underpass to the Norfolk Southern railroad bisecting Douglasville.

The track, which carries about 40 trains a day, cuts off the northern part of the city from the historic downtown and the commercial growth around Arbor Place mall. Tractor-trailers trying to scoot over the tracks at the steep grade crossing at the Broad Street intersection can get hung up, forcing even longer delays if the train has to stop.

“It will revitalize the northside of Douglasville,” Yockey said of the underpass.


Douglas County

  • Incorporated: Oct. 17, 1870
  • Population: 132,403
  • Total area: 199.3 square miles
  • County seat: Douglasville
  • Interstate lanes: 113.44 miles

Projects to watch

  • U.S. 278/Ga. 6 from I-20 West to Paulding County line: Widening, truck friendly lanes and operational improvements,$44.9 million
  • I-20 between western I-285 and Ga. 5: ITS and Western Regional Traffic Control Center, $19 million
  • Ga. 92 from Fairburn Road to Dallas Highway: Phases I, II and III realignment, $44.6 million
  • Western I-285 at I-20: Interchange improvements,$149 million
  • Ga. 5 from Dorsett Shoals Road/Pool Road to Kings Highway: Widening,$38.4 million
  • Lee Road/South Sweetwater Road from I-20 West to U.S. 78 (Bankhead Highway): Widening, $18.9 million
  • U.S. 78 (Veterans Memorial Highway) from Ga. 6 (Thornton Road) to Ga. 92 realignment: widening, $96.9 million
  • Ga. 166/92 (Fairburn Road/Campbellton Road) from Ga. 92/166 split in Douglas County to Ga. 70 (Fulton Industrial Boulevard) in Fulton County: Widening, $43.6 million

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Cities and towns submitted their wish lists in March: more than 400 projects worth up to $29 billion or more. Go to to see which projects hit closest to home and which have regional effects.