With the looming TSPLOST vote, Georgians across the state are hearing a lot about roads this summer. It is unlikely, however, that any community is talking about a single road more important to its future than is Ga. 400 to Forsyth County.
In a summit luncheon hosted by the chambers of commerce in Forsyth, Dawson and Lumpkin counties, local residents joined others last week in hearing about problems, concerns and potential for the “Hospitality Highway.”
The consensus? Serious progressive planning and financial commitments are needed now if the corridor is going to be anything more than a traffic-clogged parking lot in the not-so-distant future.
One initiative discussed at last week’s gathering is the Ga. 400 Express Lanes Study, part of a state effort to find ways to create express lanes on major interstates around Atlanta.
That study has produced some interesting statistical projections about rush hours on Ga. 400. According to its data, the 24-mile southbound trip from Ga. 20 to I-285 now averages just under an hour during morning rush hour (6-10 a.m.). If no improvements are made, that trip time is expected to increase by more than 30 minutes by 2040.
Worse, however, are the projections for the afternoon peak period, when the trip time is expected to increase from just over an hour now to nearly two hours by 2040.
At that point, Ga. 400 truly will be a clogged artery that threatens the health of the communities it serves.
The outcome of the TSPLOST vote certainly will have an impact on the future for the corridor, but regardless of the outcome of that referendum traffic concerns have to be addressed.
Widening certainly is needed, but expanding the footprint of the highway is an expensive proposition, and the state’s current economic climate makes money scarce. Express lanes may be a piece of the puzzle, but they alone aren’t going to be a solution. Certainly the development of bigger and better north-south alternatives needs be part of the equation as well.
While some of us may remember the days before Ga. 400 connected the county to the Atlanta region, the truth is that it has become a vital, irreplaceable asset to the community, bringing with it jobs, economic development and progress, as well as people.
But if something isn’t done to address the increasing need for traffic relief, those economic benefits are going to go somewhere else, where people can get from point A to point B without spending two hours in traffic to travel 24 miles.
There have been years of talk about the future for Ga. 400. It’s time for definitive short- and long-term plans backed by the money needed to make them reality. Lacking that, the quality of life that has so enamored the county to many will be the same sort of memory as is Forsyth County before the highway was built.