Nearly one year after the opening of the state’s Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, Cobb leaders announced Tuesday the federal government would kick in the final $5 million to complete funding for a ramp connecting the lanes to Cumberland.
The approximately $44 million project will see construction of a ramp at Akers Mill Road onto the Georgia Department of Transportation’s $834 million managed lanes, which opened in September. With local, county and state partners previously funding or committing about $39 million toward the effort, the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide $5 million via an Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant.
Kim Menefee, executive director of the Cumberland Community Improvement District, said Cobb County and the CID would together contribute nearly $90,000 needed to fully fill the funding gap for the project, which she said is likely to start construction in 2021 and be completed in 2023. The CID has been spearheading the effort to build a new ramp at Akers Mill Road aimed at giving drivers commuting through the area access to the nearly 30 miles of tolled reversible express lanes that run along Interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
The lack of a ramp at Akers Mill requires drivers who wish to access the toll lanes to cut across four to five lanes of traffic.
“The Akers Mill Ramp will allow for more direct, safe access to the I-75 express lanes for more than 100,000 daily commuters traveling to and from the Cumberland district,” Menefee said. “We are thrilled that Cobb County received the INFRA grant which closes the $5 million funding gap needed to deliver this vital regional project. We want to thank our local, state and federal leaders who were all instrumental in this effort. This is a great example of another successful public/private partnership enhancing transportation and mobility options in metro Atlanta.”
The $43.9 million ramp project is broken into two parts. Part 1, already complete, involved widening the area under Interstate 285 where it passes over I-75. That phase had a price tag of $24.2 million.
Along with the CID’s contribution of $2.8 million, that first portion of the project is being paid for using $11 million from Cobb County SPLOST funds, $4.4 million from Georgia Department of Transportation, $4 million from the Atlanta Regional Commission and $2 million from the State Road & Tollway Authority.
The second phase of the project, which builds the ramp, is expected to cost $19.7 million. Previously committed funding included $4 million from Cobb County SPLOST funds, $6 million from the ARC’s Surface Transportation Program, $1.5 million from SRTA’s Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank funds and $3.1 million from the CID.
“The fact that so many groups are working together demonstrates how essential this ramp is for the continued economic prosperity of the county,” Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce said via a release Tuesday. “The federal grant is appreciated, and I would like to thank all of those in our congressional delegation for helping make this happen.”
Among those announcing the grant Tuesday was the congressional office of U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville.
“During the last two years, my office has worked tirelessly with the Cumberland CID to secure federal funding for the Akers Mill Ramp project,” Loudermilk said in a written statement. “This funding announcement is a testament to the persistent efforts of both of our offices to make this local road project a national priority. Much of the credit for securing this federal funding goes to Kim Menefee, Cumberland CID’s executive director, and her staff, for their tireless efforts. I also want to thank Secretary Elaine Chao (USDOT) and her staff for working with my office to ensure this project became a national priority.”
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who lives in east Cobb, also weighed in.
“In the interest of safety and efficiency, I was proud to support this partnership between federal and state transportation agencies and Cumberland CID,” Isakson said in a statement. “As southeast Cobb, Smyrna, and northwest Atlanta experience continued growth, this investment will help motorists avoid additional traffic congestion and build a foundation for continued economic development around the I-75 and I-285 interchange.”