FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Alpharetta has taken the first step to reach a deal with Forsyth County and the City of Johns Creek to widen a 4.7-mile stretch of McGinnis Ferry Road.
The project, estimated at between $51 and $60 million, calls for adding a lane in each direction to one of the busiest east-west routes north of Old Milton Parkway and State Bridge Road. McGinnis Ferry Road lies on the county border, with Forsyth County to the north and Alpharetta and Johns Creek on the south.
At its last meeting of 2019, the Alpharetta City Council approved its portion of an agreement that splits the cost between the two cities and Forsyth County for the first phase of the project. Alpharetta will pay $5.9 million, and so will Johns Creek, if the measure passes when it comes before the City Council in the coming weeks. Forsyth County has committed $18 million and will consider the agreement at the County Commission work session Jan. 14. The Georgia DOT has added another $10 million in funding.
“We’re trying to move the ball on this one. It’s been waiting around for a long time,” Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin said.
The scope of the project runs 4.7-miles, from Sargent Road in Johns Creek west to Union Hill Road in Alpharetta. Each city shares about 2.3 miles of the roadway with Forsyth County.
The current agreement covers only the first phase of the shared project, focusing on two segments: one about a third of a mile from Union Hill Road east to and including the Big Creek Bridge in Alpharetta, and the other from Seven Oaks Parkway east to Sargent Road in Johns Creek, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile.
Widening of the stretch between Big Creek to Seven Oaks Parkway is not the focus of the current agreement.
However, if money is still available after costs for the first two segments are completed, widening work could continue beyond the initial focus, according to Alpharetta Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz.
The latest reception by Alpharetta officials is in sharp contrast to an earlier proposal Forsyth County floated last October — a proposal Alpharetta’s Gilvin said wasn’t “going anywhere.”
The earlier proposal would have allowed Forsyth County to move on right of way acquisition within the two cities. It also asked for $9 million from each city.
The latest proposal, drafted in coordination between representatives from the two cities and
Forsyth County, leaves property acquisition squarely in the hands of each jurisdiction and lowers the ask from each city by about $3 million.
Funding gap remains
One sticking point remains. Even if all three sign off on the agreement, the road project is still underfunded to the tune of between $10 million and $21 million.
“We think if we start progressing with the right of way and with our Phase 1 and Johns Creek with their Phase 1, we’re optimistic the state will move forward with more money to bridge at least most of that gap,” Alpharetta City Administrator Bob Regus said.
Forsyth County is pushing hard to get the project underway, according to County Manager Eric Johnson.
“On Nov. 4, I arranged a meeting of senior staff from Forsyth County and the two cities to propose a new approach to the project: a three-party [inter-governmental agreement] that would allow us to move forward now with everything that we can afford and agree to do,” he said.
The funding gap, he added, will be better defined once land is purchased for the entire stretch and the two initial segments for construction are bid. He also said the state is interested in seeing the project progress.
“I have also shared the proposal with Russell McMurry, GDOT commissioner, who is looking at how GDOT’s funding commitment to the project can best be used,” Johnson said.