Henry County District 5 Commissioner Bruce Holmes (right) cut the ribbon recently on the intersection of East Atlanta Road at Panola Road, officially opening the road to traffic. Also pictured (from left) Roque Romero, SPLOST Transportation Director; Jill Hodges and Chris Marsengill, both of McGee Partners, Inc.
By Jason A. Smith
The future is reportedly brighter for travelers in the Fairview and Stockbridge areas, as a result of a road-realignment project designed to reduce gridlock in the area.
The Henry County Board of Commissioners, and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Department, recently marked the completion of intersection improvements at Panola Road and East Atlanta Road. The Henry County Department of Transportation paid for the design of the intersection, and the SPLOST III program funded the right-of-way acquisition and construction costs. The total cost of the project was $2,096,630.
The endeavor was designed by McGee Partners, Inc., of Tucker, and constructed by ISC, Inc. of Conyers.
"The intersection of East Atlanta Road and Panola Road has long been a priority, due to the unsafe angle at which they intersected," said county spokesperson, Julie Hoover-Ernst. "Now complete, the new intersection has been realigned so that the roads meet at 90-degree angles to each other, directly across from the Twin Oaks subdivision."
She said county officials, at the outset of the project, held meetings with residents, to hear their opinions on traffic in the area before the changes were made. Many of those residents were worried the project would create a direct link between the Twin Oaks neighborhood, at the entrance of the subdivision, and West Panola Road.
"In response to concerns voiced by residents of Twin Oaks ... SPLOST engineers redesigned the west entrance of the subdivision, transforming it into a cul-de-sac that effectively eliminated that entrance," Hoover-Ernst said.
"I can see why the citizens were concerned about that becoming a cut-through," she said. "To address those concerns, the county developed what is known as a hammerhead cul-de-sac."
County officials determined there was not enough room, at the intersection, prior to the completion of the project, to build a full cul-de-sac. The hammerhead, Hoover-Ernst said, enables larger vehicles to enter the cul-de-sac, back up, and turn around.
The original intersection had created problems for drivers in the Stockbridge area, prior to the road project's completion, according to Rich Lemmon, crime and intelligence analyst for the Henry County Police Department.
"During the period from April 1, 2006, to March 31, 2011, there were a total of 53 reported accidents at the intersection of East Atlanta Road and Panola Road," Lemmon said. "Of these 53 accidents, there were 107 vehicles involved, 18 injuries and no fatalities."
District V Commissioner, Bruce Holmes, represents the area which includes the revamped intersection. He said the SPLOST project was a "wonderful investment."
"I think we've improved the safety by realigning the intersection," Holmes said. "We added turning lanes. We also added a light here, and I think the citizens are very happy with the progress we are making in this area of the county."
Robert Abercrombie, of Stockbridge, works as a sergeant for the Fulton County Sheriff's Office and has lived near the intersection of Panola and East Atlanta Roads for nearly 15 years. He said he has noticed considerable improvement in traffic flow, with the completion of the SPLOST project.
"It's actually a great thing that the county finally decided to do, with the widening and the turning lanes," said Abercrombie. "It helps to alleviate traffic and congestion. You don't have a bottleneck in that area. It's a lot more accessible."
Abercrombie said he is glad the county invested SPLOST funds into the Fairview community, and is looking forward to future projects in the area.
For more information on the SPLOST transportation project, visit www.henrycounty-ga.org/splost.