The recent bout of wet weather has made completing Flowery Branch’s long-anticipated Lights Ferry Connector “a greater challenge,” city planner John McHenry said.
But the $2.1 million project is otherwise on schedule and still expected to be open to traffic this spring, he said.
The project’s first phase, including an intersection with Church Street and a new alignment with Lights Ferry, is largely complete.
The connector’s main feature, a roundabout at Mitchell Street, is taking shape. The roundabout will showcase a landscaped center with granite pavers and the town’s backlit name in brushed-aluminum letters.
Also, new curbing and stormwater infrastructure is being built, McHenry said.
“Outstanding elements include the installation of the light poles, remaining paving, landscaping and sidewalks,” he said.
When completed, the connector will ease travel for motorists trying to get from Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 to McEver Road, or vice versa.
For the longest time, getting back and forth between those main traffic arteries has meant doglegging through downtown streets — four right or left turns, to be exact. The project, in essence, will make for a straight shot between McEver and Ga. 13.
A detour is still in place, but motorists can travel part of the new roadway, a section between Church Street and Ga. 13.
The new road also is significant because, as it crosses Ga. 13, it becomes Phil Niekro Boulevard, which leads to another major thoroughfare, Interstate 985. And Phil Niekro becomes the busy Spout Springs Road as it passes under I-985.
“The big thing about (the project), too, is that it opens up kind of a (downtown) gateway area,” City Manager Bill Andrew has said.
Mitchell was considered an ideal spot for the roundabout as it’s the widest road downtown and helps direct motorists to Main Street, where a sort of business renaissance is taking place, with eateries and other shops.
City leaders envision more development, including on Mitchell Street, where an apartment building that used to house the old Flowery Branch High School occupies almost an entire block.
And there are other plans for downtown growth, including a home for a new city hall.
The connector is being funded through the city’s capital improvement fund, but a bulk of it — or nearly $1.6 million — comes from a loan and grant provided by the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, managed by the State Road and Tollway Authority.