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Aug 25, 2009

Bright Star Road Connector Project Nears Completion

The city’s Bright Star Road Connector is nearly finished, but it won’t open until the Rose Avenue realignment project is complete.

A realignment of Rose Avenue, coupled with the opening of the Bright Star Road Connector, will allow traffic to move more freely and make the intersection of Rose Avenue and Highway 5 safer, according to City Manager Bill Osborne.

Because of reserve funds of $2.6 million from the city of Douglasville’s annual budget, the Bright Star Road connector is nearly finished. Its opening will help deflect some of the traffic traveling south on Highway 5, but is also expected to offer a commercial and retail district that could include restaurant, a hotel with conference center and other businesses, Osborne said. But it won’t open until the Rose Avenue project is complete, he said. That’s where the state and federal governments come in.

The Georgia Department of Transportation, using federal economic stimulus funds, is about to start work on Rose Avenue where it intersects with Highway 5. C.W. Matthews, the contractor who built the Bright Star connector, is constructing the project.

“Rose Avenue is getting realigned to make it a safer intersection,” said Osborne. “We won’t have all that cross traffic.” Osborne, along with Jeff Noles, director of development services for the city, said this was one of the first of a half-dozen projects approved by GDOT.

It was especially impressive, Osborne indicated, given GDOT’s financial problems that caused it to cancel some projects. They credit city planning director Michelle Wright for putting it all together.  “Because of her work, we met the shovel-ready requirement (set) by GDOT,” Osborne said, explaining that shovel-ready means “the next thing to take place was to put the shovel in the dirt to start construction.” GDOT turned down projects whose plans were incomplete, Noles said. Noles had no estimate on how much it would cost to fix Rose Avenue, since it is a GDOT project.

The Rose Avenue realignment is scheduled to be completed in 2010. The y-shaped area that leads to Hwy. 5 is congested during rush hour traffic, but is especially backed up during the holidays. “Anybody that’s trying to deal with Rose Avenue trying to go south knows it is dangerous and congested,” Osborne said.

With its reconfiguration and the opening of the Bright Star Road Connector, Osborne expects that many drivers will opt to take the Bright Star Road connector to avoid the I-20 bridge and the lines of traffic headed to Douglas Boulevard and those who live or are traveling farther down Hwy. 5. “It would alleviate or cause you to avoid traffic,” he said. Traffic congestion and safety concerns aside, the opening of the Bright Star Road Connector should have a bonus: economic development.

Osborne, Noles and others have for years been working with Alex Conroy, a Connecticut real estate developer who has provided plans on how he’d like to develop the area along the Bright Star Connector. It’s all speculation at this point, Noles said, but plans call for 1-2 million square feet of mixed-use commercial office and retail, as well as a hotel on site with a corresponding conference center to the hotel.

The plans are being studied by the state Department of Community Affairs, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, and the Atlanta Regional Commission to determine the developmental regional impact (DRI) to the area. DCA heads the process, which is lengthy and looks at the entire region and the proposed project’s impact on it, Noles said.

In the meantime, Jamie Gilbert, executive director of the Douglasville Development Authority is showing the property to perspective tenants. “You should see that area blossom once it opens,” Noles said.