Georgia DOT has programmed their million dollar contribution towards scoping for the Bethlehem Road interchange after sharing their intent to do so in November. The funding is the stateâ€™s first financial contribution towards the future interstate exit.
According to the stateâ€™s website, the one million dollars is funded through house bill 170 proceeds and is budgeted in the current fiscal year. The funding was given state project ID 0017182.
Steps towards constructing the proposed interchange, likely to receive the designation â€œExit 214â€ when built, started in 2015 with the completion of an interchange feasibility study. Second, an interchange justification report was completed in late 2017 and conditionally approved by the Federal Highway Administration in September 2018.
The project has been working off a â€œhigh-levelâ€ concept, pictured above, up to this point. The million dollars from GDOT will help to refine that concept into a preferred alignment. Later stages of preliminary engineering will also develop an environmental impact study that can be submitted to the federal government for review and final approval.
The project includes reconstructing Bethlehem Road on new location that ideally will be constructed with four lanes. New bridges over I-75 and Bethlehem Bottoms will also be required.
Realistically, opening the new exit alongside Georgia DOTâ€™s commercial vehicle lanes in 2028 is an appropriate goal. Nine months (and counting) have been lost that could have been used to continue developing the project after commissioners tabled a contract for preliminary engineering in May 2019. In October, the board voted 3-3 on party lines to exclude the project from the countyâ€™s request for federal transportation funding.