November 25, 2012

GDOT could start work on Rocky Face interchange in spring

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— Pauline Brown has run the Mr. Biscuit on the North Dalton Bypass for the past 34 years. But she says she’s worried about how much longer she can continue.

“We offer good food at a reasonable price, but if people can’t turn in here it’s going to put us out of business,” she said.

Brown and other business owners in the area are worried about plans for the Rocky Face interchange, including a new median down the bypass. Business owners on the north side of the bypass say that the median will make it difficult for customers to get to their businesses.

“During the busy times of the day, rush hour, the traffic backs up so far anyway it’s hard to get in and out. I’m not sure it will make a huge difference, at least during the busy times, but it does concern me that they didn’t provide a place to turn around,” said Tom Manis, the owner of the Blimpie on the North Bypass.

Officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) say the median will stretch from the Shugart Road intersection almost to the first bridge going south, meaning that southbound traffic would have to go to Willowdale Road to turn around to get to businesses such as Mr. Biscuit. Business owners say they asked for some breaks in the median so that traffic could turn but were denied.

The median will be part of an overall reconstruction of the I-75 interchange at Rocky Face and some of the surrounding roads to improve safety and move traffic more swiftly. The project has been on the books for almost two decades and at the top of the Greater Dalton Metropolitan Planning Organization’s list of priorities for more than a decade, but GDOT announced only earlier this year that it would be put out for bids in January.

GDOT Project Manager Peter Emmanuel says work on the project could start by spring 2013.

“The department has estimated that the construction could take two years. I would say that anything less than 30 months would be a good, realistic time,” he said. “The median would be part of that overall work, which include U.S. Highway 41.”

The plans call for longer deceleration lanes on both the northbound and southbound paths of I-75. That will allow vehicles exiting at Highway 41 to separate from through traffic earlier and, in theory at least, slow down more before hitting the exit ramps.

The plan also calls for a new, second, exit ramp on the southbound side of I-75, allowing traffic headed north and west of Highway 41 to separate earlier from traffic headed south and east, as well as some changes to bridges in the area to help them handle more traffic.

In addition, Tampico Way’s intersection with Shugart Road will be moved about 400 feet south. Now, that intersection is just a few feet south of the intersection of Shugart and Highway 41.

Emmanuel says the total cost of the project, including engineering and right-of-way acquisition, will be roughly $56.7 million.