County revisits East Fayetteville Bypass

Fayette County could soon be restarting work on the East Fayetteville Bypass.

At Thursday night’s Board of Commissioners meeting, county staff offered an update on the roadway. The East Fayetteville Bypass project spanning from SR 279 south to S. Jeff Davis Drive dates back to 2003 and the county’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) at the time. The updated CTP in 2010 modified the plan from four lanes to two and changed the destination from 279 to 85.

Calling it the linchpin of the project, Commissioner Steve Brown expressed the importance of figuring out how the bypass would connect to SR 279 on the north end.

“I just think this project is much less of a project if we don’t make that connection at the end,” he said. “I think a lot’s riding on that.”

Public Works Director Phil Mallon noted that a 279 connection would be part of planning for continuous travel, but that it needs to be a separate job for planning, noting that money is already set aside to study feasibility with a clearer picture hopefully before the commissioners in 12 months.

“I think it would be a wonderful project to put in for federal aid because it would involve two state routes (85 and 279),” he said.

Thursday night, the county discussed the section of road between SR 54 and County Line Court, a stretch of roughly three miles. While only a two-lane road would be built, it would be constructed with a much larger 120 feet of right-of-way, which would allow for much easier expansion down the road as needed. There are no paths or sidewalks currently planned, but they would also be easy to add later.

“Right now, there are relatively few impacts to acquire this right-of-way, and we felt it is a smart to do now versus waiting 20 to 30 years,” said Mallon.

Consultant David Jaeger with Mallett and Associates agreed.

“It’s my belief that if it ever is four-lane in the future, you will have already achieved the lifespan of the pavement you put down so you wouldn’t be wasting money now,” he said.

Chairman Eric Maxwell made his feelings clear.

“I simply don’t support the East Fayetteville Bypass,” he said, citing unanswered questions about how the road ends, how much it costs, and what homes or businesses would be torn down in the process. He expressed a willingness to reconsider his position if he heard no opposition from potentially affected area residents.

The project was previously linked with the West Fayetteville Bypass, now known was Veterans Parkway. As Maxwell noted, it was a particularly contentious time when it last bubbled up.

“It created a lot of heartburn for some folks, and it created enough heartburn for some folks that I wasn’t here for about six years, and now I’m back,” he said. “Low and behold, we got the movie studio out there. Sometimes when you build a road, they will come, and sometimes what comes is not a bad thing.”

Maxwell cited stats that showed 2,000 people are working at Pinewood Studios every day with an average salary of $81,000 a year.

“I knew that if a road like that was built that we would get something,” he said. “I’m not claiming responsibility for Pinewoods, I had nothing to do with Pinewoods. I had something to do with the road, but when you build something like that and it brings in those kind of jobs, I think that was probably a good decision to build that road at that time, much more so than this East Fayetteville Bypass.”

Commissioner Charles Oddo stressed a need to be prepared for what lies ahead. Even as Fayette’s growth is slow, surrounding counties see a more rapid pace, and they will travel local roads no matter what Fayette chooses.

“We’re in a position now to look ahead and plan and minimize what will be. If we don’t do anything, it will be worse,” he said, focusing on minimizing curb cuts and limiting commercial development to keep traffic moving. “If we’re ever going to do it, this is the best time to do it (before development hits). It gets exceedingly more difficult every year as the county grows.”

Mallon placed an emphasis on managing growth on what is currently mostly undeveloped land.

“I think the importance of this project and its longterm value to county will depend on how well we can control access,” he said. “I’m asking the Board to put the directive on staff to develop whatever measures we need in terms of overlay districts or policies so we don’t have 40 single-family residences with driveways on that road.”

Staff will come back before the Board in the future with action items related to the East Fayetteville Bypass to vote on. Depending on how the permitting process fares, construction could start as early as spring 2010 or be pushed back to spring 2020.

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