With much fanfare, the new Windy Hill Road-Macland Road Connector will open for business today following an 11 a.m ribbon-cutting ceremony.
But for Smyrna, is this good news or bad?
Will the new road, conceived to give west Cobb commuters a more direct route to Interstate 75 and U.S. 41, play an important role in the sale of the city-owned Hickory Lake apartment complex?
Or will it simply dump thousands more daily commuters passing through the Jonquil City, creating a series of traffic snarls from I-75 to Cobb Parkway to Atlanta Road and beyond?
What is know is that the new four-lane, $51 million road that extends Windy Hill by 2.1 miles, from where it now dead-ends at Austell Road over to Macland Road, will be open for business for this afternoon’s rush hour. The speed limit will be 45 miles per hour on the road, which broke ground for construction almost three years ago and was chiefly funded by the 2005 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
With limited intersections, the connector was built to avoid stop-and-go traffic. But once motorists reach Smyrna, they should be prepared to hit the brakes for the next four miles or so as they attempt to maneuver Windy Hill from South Cobb Drive to I-75.
“We’re going to take on a lot of traffic from west Cobb that’s going to come through here,’’ said Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon. “My issue is this…there’s no sense in getting the traffic from Windy Hill up at Austell Road and then it being bottlenecked at Atlanta Road, bottlenecked again at Cobb Parkway and then a major bottleneck at 75.
“Their original plans, and one of the plans I saw was when it got to Cobb Parkway, they were going to tunnel under that. That way you wouldn’t have to stop. You’d just keep going; you wouldn’t have a traffic light.’’
Of course, there is no tunnel, and hence, extended lines of traffic on Windy Hill are expected with Cobb DOT officials estimating the connector will handle 27,300 vehicles a day by 2032. But all those cars and trucks aren’t such a bad thing for Smyrna officials concerning its Hickory Lake marketing efforts.
The 48-acre property features 1,170 linear feet frontage on Windy Hill, a block west of South Cobb Drive. In touting the traffic count to prospective buyers, Smyrna officials estimated that 40,413 vehicles per day passed by the property, and that the VPD number is projected to be 46,832 now that the connector has been completed.
That eyeball increase on Hickory Lake makes the property more desirable according to the city. “Hopefully the Windy-Mac connector will help that property,’’ Bacon said. “That new road has to help in that respect.’’
Money was approved in the 2005 SPLOST for a Windy Hill Median project, which is to include the installation of raised medians and left turn lanes between Atlanta Road and South Cobb Drive.
What would have better helped relieve area traffic congestion would’ve been the $42.5 million, 1.5-mile “Windy Hill Boulevard’’ project that was in the original 2011 SPLOST project list that passed this past spring.
Cobb Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo told The Marietta Daily Journal last fall that, "This is unlike anything else in the region, and would be a major project that would ease traffic and could spawn redevelopment in the area."
It’s concept included two commuter-specific lanes in each direction that were to be buffered from outside, and single lanes dedicated for local motorists attempting to enter a business rather than continuing to the interstate.
The lanes would have crossed over each other near Ward Street and Burbank Circle. It was designed to begin at Benson Poole Road and extend to Dixie Avenue and be accessible at Atlanta Road and South Cobb Drive.
But by the time county officials had trimmed the 2011 SPLOST list to include projects of “critical needs only,” the Windy Hill Boulevard project was not on the mid-March ballot.