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SOUTH COBB – Cobb commissioners next Tuesday will vote on whether to approve an estimated $38.8 million connector between Windy Hill and Macland Roads in a heavily trafficked area of southwest Cobb.
Government officials and residents have voiced support for the project’s preferred alternative, construction for which would begin in 2010 if approved by commissioners.
“It’s an extremely logical thing to do,” Ward 2 Marietta City Councilman Grif Chalfant said of the connector, which would come within two miles of city limits. “I think it’ll divert your Macland Road, Powder Springs Street (traffic) and ease the congestion through Marietta.”
In November, the majority of the Marietta City Council supported Chalfant’s plan to examine the Macland Connector as an alternative to the Powder Springs Connector, which Atlanta Regional Commission officials told Mayor Bill Dunaway could not be fast-tracked due to a $4.4 billion federal funding shortfall.
“As far as I’m concerned, (Powder Springs Connector) is dead,” Chalfant said.
The Powder Springs Connector would have linked Powder Springs Street and South Cobb Drive for Paulding and Cobb commuters, whereas the Cobb project would connect Macland Road to Windy Hill Road with a two-lane limited-access rural roadway. The preferred route, “2B,” includes a proposed tunnel under Callaway Road to limit impact on Jim Miller Park to the north.
According to Chalfant, the Powder Springs Connector also would have exacerbated problems with people cutting through the Whitlock Heights neighborhood in Marietta.
“It would’ve given people a good reason to cross there to get to South Cobb Drive,” Chalfant said.
According to county officials, the 2005 1-cent Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax will fund design, right-of-way acquisition and construction of the Macland Connector.
Marietta resident Craig Kootsillas, in a letter to the Marietta Daily Journal published July 9, expressed concern for shortfalls in federal funds for the project and other SPLOST-funded projects, but called the Windy Hill and Macland roads connector “critical for congestion relief.”
Opposition, he wrote, “Centers on the fact that the majority of cars destined to use the new roadways are not residents of the area,” but come from the fast-growing areas of west Cobb and Paulding, for instance.
“The local opposition ignores the impossibility of building a fence around the district or imposing a toll on ‘foreigners.’ Simply put, the cars are coming,” Kootsillas wrote. “Instead of wishing them away, local community leaders ought to understand that inaction will lead to regional gridlock.”
At a June 26 commission meeting, Cobb resident Diane Martin also spoke on behalf of a committee in support of the project’s preferred alternative, noting that right-of-way acquisition of 59 modular and mobile homes in Cumberland Creek and Lamplighter Village poses the least relative impact.
“As you are aware, these residential right-of-way acquisitions will not displace owners of homes valued around $750,000 as they are in east Cobb, but rather homeowners whose property range from about $65,000 to $200,000,” she said.
Cobb Chairman Sam Olens said the project has been on the table for at least 25 years.
“There is a huge problem with congestion in the area,” Olens said. “I would certainly prefer to move forward with a project if it demonstrates effective improvements.”
Olens and Chalfant each said there is no panacea to ease growing traffic problems in the area.
The connector, however, may come close.
The Cobb Department of Transportation projects that in 2012, average daily traffic on Powder Springs Road – presently 40,000 – would climb to 44,850 without the connector and fall to 32,000 cars a day with the project.
For Callaway Road, which has an average daily traffic 15,900, the 2012 numbers are 17,800 without the connector and 12,050 with the new road.
According to Cobb DOT Director David Montanye, the project solves a bottleneck problem caused by two eastbound lanes on both Powder Springs and Macland roads that merge into two eastbound lanes.
“You have four lanes of traffic bottleneck into two lanes,” he said, noting morning traffic from commuters working their way east to Interstate 75 increases congestion.
The extremely important project, he said, would connect the gap between Windy Hill and Macland roads.
Southwest Cobb Commissioner Annette Kesting’s district contains the project, which also borders northwest Cobb Commissioner Helen Goreham’s district.
At a June 14 Public Information Open House, Mrs. Kesting said she didn’t see the project as a solution to the bottleneck problem, but said she plans to listen to what her constituents want.