Georgia Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday they plan to spend $12.4 million in federal and state money to widen a 1-mile stretch between Paces Mill and Akers Mill roads. The project will be at no expense to Cobb County and will transform the five-lane road with two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane into a six-lane road with three lanes in each direction.
It’s expected to be completed in June 2016.
Mark McKinnon, GDOT spokesman, says that’s a normal timeline for a project of this size and the department will do what it can to minimize lane closures during weekdays with some work being completed on weekends and at night.
The bulk of the project won’t actually be widening the road but moving utilities buried under the street.
“It takes quite a while to do utility relocation. People don’t think about it but under the road way there are utilities there that have to be moved,” McKinnon said. He said it can take a year just to move the utilities.
When the project is done, drivers will notice a significant difference in traffic, McKinnon said.
The section of Cobb Parkway targeted in the project not only sees traffic from commuters heading into downtown Atlanta but also from drivers seeking refuge from congestion on Interstates 75 and 285.
“The rest of the time, it’s not really a problem,” said Robin Dickson, owner of Allure Dance Studio at 2890 Cobb Pkwy., Atlanta, near Akers Mill Road.
Looking out of his dance studio Wednesday, Dickson said traffic seemed to be moving along at a fast pace, but it’s when an accident or other delay happens on the interstate that traffic backs up.
He called the widening project a “Catch 22.”
Widening the road could make it more difficult for clients to find his business, Dickson said, but it may give him more exposure.
“I think it will ultimately hurt some business, but on the other hand, maybe it will expose Cobb Parkway to more cars and people will see all the wonderful businesses on Cobb Parkway,” Dickson said.
The project takes into account the long-term growth expected in Cobb and is intended to alleviate traffic as more people working in Atlanta seek out suburban homes in Cobb.
“The growth, of course, in Cobb County over the last 20 years has been huge, and it continues to grow,” McKinnon said.
Bob Ott, who represents the area on the Cobb Board of Commissioners, says it should “greatly enhance” traffic flow for the area that is in the middle of the Cumberland Community Improvement District where high density condo buildings are being built.
“I do think it will be an improvement in traffic,” Ott said.
The mile stretch of pavement set to be widened will join another road project under construction now.
Construction is underway for the widening of Cobb Parkway approaching the bridge crossing the Chattahoochee River at the Cobb-Fulton County line.
“We built the bridge in anticipation of this project,” McKinnon said.