Posted: 7:48 pm EST January 18, 2011Updated: 8:32 pm EST January 18, 2011 – Richard Elliot – wsbtv.com
“It is definitely the most anticipated (project) in a while,” Georgia DOT Deputy Press Secretary Jill Goldberg told Channel 2 Action News reporter Richard Elliot. “We’ve had more people wanting this done since the road was originally built.”
Georgia 400 from I-85 north to I-285 was completed in the early 1990s at a cost of $180 million, not adjusted for inflation. Goldberg said there wasn’t enough money budgeted to connect Ga. 400 to I-85, except the southbound lanes. Since then, commuters have had to negotiate Sidney Marcus Boulevard, the Buford-Spring Connector, Lenox Road and Cheshire Bridge Road if they wanted to go between the two major thoroughfares.
Now, Goldberg said, the state sold $40 million in bonds to pay for the new interchange project. She told Elliot the bonds will be repaid in seven years using money collected from the Ga. 400 toll.
On Friday, the Georgia DOT issued Requests For Qualifications. That’s the process where interested construction companies submit their qualifications to build the project. After the DOT selects qualified companies, the DOT will ask those companies for bids on the project.
Many Buckhead neighborhoods have supported the plan for years and pushed the DOT to begin construction. One northeast Atlanta neighborhood, however, did not. Residents of the Lindridge-Martins Manor neighborhood opposed the plan because it directly affects their area. One of the proposed ramps would go along Peachtree Creek, and their properties.
“We were worried about this for a long time,” said resident Art Schoeck. His property would be in the shadow of the proposed flyover ramp. “Encroachment has always been an issue, and so when we’re going to be encroached upon, we’d like it to be in a positive way.”
Schoeck and other residents said they changed their opinion of the project when the DOT agreed to build a landscaped walking trail along Peachtree Creek once the project is completed. The DOT worked with the neighborhood association and the Southfork Conservancy on the project and plan to hook it into a series of trails that winds through that area.
“When we looked at the manner in which they were going to do this with a trail and landscaping and the fencing, if they do what they say they’re going to do, it looks like it’s going to have a positive impact on the neighborhood,” said Schoeck.
Commuters seemed to like the idea since many do not appreciate navigating their way from I-85 to Ga. 400 on a daily basis.
“I think it’s absolutely great,” said Catalina Decastillo. “It’s going to make it convenient especially for the people who live around this area. So, whoever thought of that is very smart. It’s about time.”
The winning construction company will also design the interchange. The DOT hopes to have the project completed in 2013.