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Firm to design McGinnis Ferry exit off Ga. 400 near Forsyth line

SOUTH FORSYTH — Traffic on Ga. 400 in northern Fulton and southern Forsyth counties likely will get worse before it improves, though officials say a new exit will ultimately ease congestion.

During a recent meeting, the Forsyth County commission voted 5-0 to authorize Moreland Altobelli, Inc. of Cumming to handle the preliminary and final engineering plans for the proposed McGinnis Ferry interchange. It will be built between the existing Exits 11 and 12.

“This project has been a longtime coming,” said John Cunard, the county’s director of engineering. “The board has recently approved a project framework agreement with [the state Department of Transportation] for this very design whereby 80 percent of these funds will be reimbursed to the county from federal dollars, and the local portion is 20 percent.”

The design costs, which includes right-of-way plans, are projected to total nearly $1.9 million.

About 80 percent of that cost will be paid by DOT, with the remainder split between Forsyth and the North Fulton Community Improvement District.

“Just as soon as we get that signed project framework agreement back from GDOT, they’ll give us a notice to proceed on the design,” Cunard said. “We should have that back before we issue a [procurement] contract for our consultant, so it’s all coming together at the same time.”

DOT funds will not go toward the construction, which will be paid for by the county and North Fulton’s CID. The county’s portion was one of the projects outlined in the $100 million transportation bond referendum that voters approved last fall.

“Fortunately, our transportation bond passed back in November, and this is one of the projects that we had on our bond list,” Cunard said. “We’ve designated $10 million of our transportation bond money toward this project.”

The interchange itself remains a ways off, but Cunnard said he hopes it can open in three to four years.

“Based upon that draft schedule, if all goes well and the funding is all in place at the time of construction, then this project could go into construction as early as April of 2018,” he said. “I would say hopefully no later than a year after that.

“It’s taken us several years to get where we are now. It all started with federal earmark legislation by some residents years ago for this project,” Cunard said. “What it took was us taking the lead and contracting a feasibility study for a new interchange.”

He added that the DOT won’t approve a new interchange on an interstate or major road without such a study and an “interchange justification report.”