Peachtree City is looking to move forward with design plans for several intersections along the busiest corridor of Highway 54 with the hope that investing in designs now will net major federal grant funding later.

The traffic congestion in the area of the Highway 54/74 intersection has been an ongoing concern for the city for years. A study done last year recommended improvements for problematic intersections at Huddleston and 54, Planterra and 54, The Avenue and 54, and a few others.

One of the major changes coming to the corridor has already been approved by the state. The developer of the Overlook retail development will install a “continuous green T” intersection at Line Creek and Highway 54 on the south side of the highway.

The $600,000 project is expected to begin in August, with construction running through February. City staff have warned that the construction phase will not be a fun time for the already congested corridor.

The continuous Green T intersection design would be the first of its kind for the state. It would allow traffic to flow without stopping in a westbound direction on Highway 54 while northbound vehicles attempting to turn left onto Highway 54 and travel west would be situated into a “stacking lane.” Vehicles attempting to enter and exit Line Creek Drive along 54 east would be limited by a right-in, right-out access.

At a meeting last week, council discussed the intersections of most concern, identifying the intersections at Planterra (which allows traffic to cross over to the complex which includes Home Depot and Wal-Mart) as well as creating right-in, right-out access on the north side of 54 at Market Place Boulevard (across from the Avenue), and at Westpark Walk.

Council also discussed different options for improving traffic flow in and out of the Avenue via Highway 54. The study done last year recommended the possibility of another Continuous Green-T intersection there.

As interim City Manager Jon Rorie explained during the meeting, the city essentially has to spend around $150,000 upfront for the chance of getting over $20 million in funding for the projects. He said those funds cannot be obtained if the city doesn’t present engineered plans for the intersections.

“Spending $150,000 is tough for me to swallow, but you’re in a catch 22. If we don’t do this, we move forward at a zero pace,” Rorie said of improving the traffic conditions in the corridor.

Rorie explained that the upfront investment for engineering plans would give the city the chance at grant funding, which it would have to also match at a 20-percent level of around $5 million.

“So we’re investing $150,000 for the potential of receiving $20 million that we have to match at $5 million,” Rorie said.

The discussion of the various options led to the conclusion that council would like to see progress at the Planterra Way crossing and toward creating right-in, right-out limited access at Market Place and Westpark Walk.

That change at Westpark Walk would prevent attempted left turns across what becomes a congested westbound lane of traffic on Highway 54 approaching the intersection with Highway 74. It would also allow the city to close the median and then extend the left-turn lane from Highway 54 southbound onto Highway 74. That relatively short turning lane creates a bottleneck at peak traffic hours as vehicles attempting to continue west are blocked by vehicles trying to squeeze into the turn lane to go south.

Making a similar right-in, right-out intersection at Market Place will be a bit more complicated, Rorie said, because the city may get resistance from retail businesses that do not want crossing traffic from the Avenue limited.

The crossing at Planterra Way and Highway 54 is also an emphasis. Rorie explained that the light there needs to be changed from its current split-phase, which only allows one direction of crossing traffic to go at a time. Rorie said that split-phase system causes problems all along the corridor. Rorie said the plan for Planterra also includes possibly adding a left turn lane and/or extending a right hand turn lane.

Council also discussed traffic access from The Avenue onto Highway 54, where traffic frequently backs up into the intersection as vehicles attempt to turn left to go west.

The idea of closing the median at the intersection was floated, which would make the access and exit from The Avenue a right-in, right-out design just like the design for Market Place across the street.

Rorie said this would, again, cause problems of a mostly “political” nature as business owners nearby may resist closing the median.

Rorie said he will be meeting with GDOT this week to discuss the Highway 54 Corridor projects.