COBB COUNTY, Ga. - We're less than a week from Braves Opening Day, and that means we're exactly a year away from the new SunTrust Park in Cobb County. There's road construction all around the new Braves stadium and more is on the way.
Many of the improvements you see coming to that area were already scheduled before the new SunTrust park was a reality, but several other projects are now being fast tracked to help congestion once the Braves can call Cobb County home.
It's the first clue, we're getting close. A "SunTrust Park" sign is now up along I-75. "A year out from the stadium and we've got a lot of projects, about twenty, that are not currently in construction but will be in construction in the next month," says Jim Wilgus, the Interim Director of Cobb DOT.
Orange barrels are everywhere, as crews prepare for extra traffic around the stadium. For the first time, Cobb has even named a construction ambassador. "There's multiple projects going on, a lot are Cobb DOT, some are not, some are City of Smyrna, some are Georgia DOT. The traveling public though, they just see orange barrels and construction, it's all one thing to them so we're out here to help them out as best we can," explains David Baggett, the Cobb County Construction Ambassador for the Windy Hill and Cumberland projects.
Fourteen routes in and out of the stadium will impact Circle 75 Parkway, Cobb Parkway, Windy Ridge Parkway, Interstate North Parkway and Windy Hill Road. Right now, Windy Hill is the focus of the most construction, as crews work to build a Diverging Diamond at I-75.
"It's one of the heaviest traveled roads in Cobb County and probably the one with the highest number of accidents and safety issues, so we're out here trying to resolve those issues and work with everybody in the process," adds Baggett.
Most of the construction was planned before the Braves decided to move. "A lot of the improvements we're making on Cobb Parkway don't have anything to do with the stadium, they're to improve the northbound afternoon rush hour traffic. So it's to get people through the area faster," adds Wilgus.
And that will be the struggle, moving drivers through the area when the Braves take the field on week nights. "We're working right now to make sure that the traveling public, If you don't want to go to the stadium you've got a clean way through, but if you do, you have multiple ways to get where you want to go," Wilgus explains.
Most of the work is expected to be complete by the time the stadium opens in 2017. Cobb County plans to also have new digital message boards to warn drivers about game day traffic and give them time to make decisions about their commute home. They are also constantly updating construction alerts on their "Cobb Commute" app and on Twitter @cobbdot.
The Northwest Corridor Express Lanes is a state project. It will be open by Summer of 2018. The new, barrier separated toll lanes are being built along I-75 and I-575 to relieve congestion. They will move southbound in the morning and northbound in the afternoon. They will be a good option for drivers who want to avoid the area on game days.