Paulding County’s morning rush hour begins in dramatic fashion for those driving west on Macland Road before sunrise on weekday mornings.
About 5:30 a.m., motorists traveling from Powder Springs toward Paulding can see a stream of headlights on the horizon coming the other way on the two-lane highway.
However, the line typically can stop flowing as early as 6:30 a.m. as school traffic combines with vehicle volume to create a clog in the “pipeline,” as one state lawmaker called it.
Relief is in sight as GDOT recently revealed its plans to put out for bid by May 2020 a long-awaited, $54 million project to widen Macland Road in southwest Cobb and eastern Paulding counties, said GDOT spokesman Joe Schulman.
The 6.2-mile widening will run from New Macland Road in Powder Springs to Charles Hardy Parkway in Dallas.
The plan calls for creating a four-lane, divided road with a 20-foot grass median. Curbs, gutters and sidewalks are included, Schulman said.
Construction likely will begin in the summer of 2020 and completion is set for 2024, he said.
The route is divided about evenly between Cobb and Paulding and runs through a primarily residential section of the two counties. GDOT purchased right of way for the widening years ago.
Opening the ‘pipeline’
District 19 State Rep. Joseph Gullett, R-Dallas, said the county continues to be among Georgia’s fastest growing areas.
Traffic going in and out of Paulding will only increase in the future and the project is needed despite the traffic headaches it will cause Paulding commuters during its construction.
“We’re a bedroom community so that means more people are moving here and they need to leave to go to work,” said Gullett, whose district includes most of the Paulding half of the route.
He said the future widening of Macland Road and an ongoing project to widen Ga. Hwy. 92 to six lanes between Hiram and Douglasville are needed “just to open the pipes.”
“This is just making a bigger pipeline for cars to get in and out of (Paulding) county to go to work,” he said. “That’s just where we are as a reality of our bedroom community.
“I think from a traffic standpoint, my constituents and Paulding County as a whole, the way we solve our traffic problems primarily is solving other counties’ traffic problems — Cobb County, primarily,” he said. “When we fix their problems, we fix our problems.”
GDOT traffic studies show about 15,000 vehicles per day in Paulding travel Macland Road, which is Ga. Hwy. 360. It serves as a primary link between eastern Paulding and Smyrna, the Cumberland area and I-75.
Macland carries about half the daily traffic that the county’s other two major east-west routes — Ga. Hwy. 120 and U.S. Hwy. 278 — see inside Paulding County, according to GDOT traffic counts. But Macland Road also is the only one of the three that is not a multi-lane highway.
Some estimates say up to 80% of Paulding residents commute outside the county daily to work.
Gullett said local and state leaders are working to bring more jobs to the county so residents will not need to leave Paulding for a paycheck.
Still, reducing congestion on roads to neighboring counties is needed because “that’s just the reality of where we are today,” he said.
“This will take a little time to get it completed, but it’s just something that we have to do,” Gullett said.
GDOT completed widening of Macland to a four-lane road with a grass median between Powder Springs Road and New Macland Road in Cobb County in the late 1990s.
But despite rapid population growth in Paulding County’s eastern part, any plans for widening Macland Road the rest of the way into Paulding remained unfunded over the years.
Macland became even more of a desirable route for Paulding commuters in 2011 when Windy Hill Road was extended from Austell Road to Powder Springs Road’s intersection with Macland — creating a direct link to I-75.
An Atlanta Regional Roundtable report in 2012 stated, “In Cobb County, the 1995-2015 Comprehensive Plan cited SR 360 into Paulding County as a major facility experiencing increasing traffic congestion.”
It stated that Atlanta Regional Commission calculations of regional travel demand indicate that widening of Macland Road “will reduce congestion along this section of the corridor by 16% compared to current conditions, even after accounting for several years of growth in development and traffic volumes between today and when the project is completed.”
The report also described Ga. Hwy. 360 as “a congested route connecting Paulding County, which is listed as one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation, with Cobb County, a heavily developed suburban area.”
In the same year, a funding plan for its widening was included on a list of northwest Georgia projects to be funded by a 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. However, voters within the 15-county region overwhelmingly rejected the plan in a special election.
The plan for starting construction reportedly surprised both Paulding and Cobb transportation staffers and elected officials.
Gullett said he understood GDOT had been considering moving forward on construction earlier this year but heard nothing more about the project until seeing a recent news story about it in the Marietta Daily Journal newspaper.