If America can build a wall, Fayette County can build a tunnel


Shelby Foster

Traffic on Redwine Road has become a safety issue for anyone trying to travel to the Mill via golf cart. The Fayette County Board of Commissioners are considering ways to fix this dangerous congestion.

It’s 8 a.m. on a weekday, Starr’s Mill students should be safely making their journey to school, but instead they are fighting their way across Redwine Road. Students who take their golf carts to school are forced to cross Redwine traffic because their is no alternate way to cross. “That intersection is a nightmare to cross without a crossing guard,” sophomore Dylan Yost said. “It’s dangerous and I think something needs to change because no one lets you cross safely.”

Redwine Road is the main road leading up to the front entrance of the Panther complex, which consists of Peeples Elementary, Rising Starr Middle School, and Starr’s Mill High School. The majority of the road provides easy travel with little combustion up until the golf cart crosswalk next to the neighborhood, Foreston Place. This area causes much traffic and safety concerns on a daily basis.  

The Board of Commissioners have a multitude of plans that will fix this situation and provide a safer mean of travel across Redwine Road.  “A recommendation memorandum was completed in January 2016,” the project’s director Phil Mallon said. There are five potential plans that were discussed and reviewed.

The first two involve the construction of an additional golf cart path. The third and, most sought out, involves a tunnel underneath Redwine Road. The final two plans add flash beacons to Redwine, and are the likely result of this traffic issue.  

These plans are still under review and while the plans could be used individually, they may be combined to make the most productive system possible. “Safety is my priority,” resource officer Kimberly Hinkle said.

While construction of a tunnel under Redwine Road at the intersection of Panther Path would reduce the vehicle interaction with the trail user, the construction would be significant and outside our understanding of the project budget.

— project director Phil Mallon

The first plan will extend the golf cart path that begins in Foreston Place. It will bring the path along the west side of Redwine Road and across the street from the school’s entrance. Golf cart riders will use a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon to cross the street into Starr’s Mill. Halfway across the street an island will be placed that riders will stop at. The island will add safety to crossing the busy section of the road. During busy times a crossing guard will be put in place at the new crossing area.

The second idea is similar to the first, but uses a different crosswalk location. While the first option shows the crosswalk ending on the already built path on the east side of Redwine, the new idea shows the crosswalk ending on the sidewalk near the Starr’s Mill entrance sign. The sign will move locations, however, if this idea goes through the signs new location is currently unknown. This option will not include an island midpoint, like the first choice.

The third option is the most favored by commissioners. “The tunnel is the most ideal,” Randy Ognio, Vice Chairman of the Fayette County Commissioners said. The construction of a tunnel on Redwine Road will allow the golf carts to cross the busy road and would be similar to the various tunnels that are below roads throughout Peachtree City.

As favored as this option is, it will probably never happen. The extreme cost for the project’s completion does not come close to the given budget. “While construction of a tunnel under Redwine Road at the intersection of Panther Path would reduce the vehicle interaction with the trail user, the construction would be significant and outside our understanding of the project budget,” Mallon said.

The fourth projection is one of the two likely final decisions. “Based on the analysis, it is recommended that option four or option five be implemented,” Mallon said. The project itself will simply involve putting a High Intensity Activated Crosswalk Flash Beacon on Redwine Road at the Foreston Place cross area. This device will stop the flow of traffic long enough for golf carts to pass.

A similar idea in the works is projection five, which includes building a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon in the same place as the fourth idea.  

The fourth and fifth ideas will include additional costs to the county. Since the devices require crossing guards at peak times in travel, the payment for police will still be needed. The payment, however, may decrease when the Board of Commissioners define the peak times of travel. “While the construction costs for option five is the lowest, to accurately compare the cost of this option the cost of a crossing guard at Foreston Place should be considered,” Mallon said.

All of the plans will increase the safety and efficiency in crossing Redwine Road however, it will be a while until work on the project begins.

The last time the Board of Commissioners reviewed the plans for this project was at their August 2016 meeting. They planned to continue work on the project after the land on Redwine was reviewed, but no information has been reported back to the Board. “The commissioners are still waiting on people to go out and analyze the land,” Ognio said.

The funding of the tunnel is another dilemma. The current budget for the Redwine project is settled at $295,000 and individually, all but the tunnel project, have the funds for completion. An issue arises when the projects are put together.  

The budget for the project can be increased. The most likely way for this to happen is by extra funding from the School Board. This donation would be out of complete generosity because neither the School Board nor the school “have a say in the project,” Ognio said.   

The donation won’t occur for a while. As of March 2017, the School Board had not been informed of the needed extra funds. “I don’t believe the commissioners have approached us about funding their project. Maybe we will hear from them soon,” Board of Education Member Barry Marchman said.

In the end, Fayette County voters determined the final decision. On Mar. 21 the Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax bill was voted in. The bill increased taxes for citizens of Fayette County which brought in new forms of revenue for the local government. This increase in money has allowed the commissioners to improve their budget on the Redwine Road Project, and an additional cart path and tunnel will be constructed in the near future. A time frame has not been created yet.