Georgia DOT planning 2024 start for Bethlehem Road interchange

In an update to Henry County on February 2, Georgia DOT leadership shared with the county a new timeline for the Bethlehem Road interchange. The state is planning to start construction on the new exit in either late 2023 or early 2024. The estimated completion date is 2027.

Georgia DOT also stated they are working with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) to program an approximately $50 million dollar contribution to the exit. The state plans to fund the contribution in FY 2024.

Because of the dollar amount, ARC can only program the contribution through a TIP amendment. ARC is currently accepting public comment on an amendment — including $14 million in new federal funds for Henry County. The Bethlehem Road funds are expected in the next amendment later this year.

Before the state can start construction on the new interchange, the project has to proceed through design and right of way acquisition. Georgia DOT provided $1 million dollars to start design work in 2020. They have a consultant onboard for the project. The state asked Henry County to contribute $5 million dollars for design and right of way.

The county funding is available in SPLOST IV. Henry County has $5.26 million remaining in the project account. In addition to the county’s share, the city of Locust Grove is contributing $1 million. The city council approved a memorandum of understanding with the state on Monday, February 1.

Bethlehem Road MOU

Henry County commissioners considered a memorandum of understanding for the project on Tuesday, February 2. The board took no action on the agreement following an hour-long discussion.

The memorandum asks Henry County to contribute $5 million dollars towards the project. In exchange, Georgia DOT will award a design-build team for the project. By utilizing the design-build process, it allows GDOT to accelerate the project delivery. The consultant currently on board will assist the state in completing approximately 30% of design before GDOT awards a second firm both the remainder of design and construction in one contract.

Commissioner Clemmons suggested several revisions to the agreement. In her revisions, the county’s funds would be used for construction only, not design or right of way. Furthermore, the county will only make its contribution after FHWA commits funds to complete the project. The board did not vote on the suggested revisions.

County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews suggested county staff schedule a follow-up meeting between the commissioners and Georgia DOT to address the board’s questions. Its expected the joint meeting will be the next discussion about the interchange.

Credit for the featured image to Google Maps and the Sign Maker by Brendon Strowe.

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