Bartow County, Cartersville, Floyd County and Rome officials, along with all of Bartow’s state representatives met with Gov. Nathan Deal on Jan. 16 to discuss the possibility of building the connector. The purpose of the meeting was laid out in a Jan. 8 letter written by Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Frank Harris Jr.
Harris, citing a “sense of regional brotherhood” created a year ago when Rome and Floyd County assisted with the Adairsville tornado recovery, said now was the time to re-examine the connector route.
“This new era of teamwork [has] helped us reach a consensus on the desired route of a connector between I75 and US 411. On behalf of the Commissioners of Floyd and Bartow County, we respectfully ask that you join us in pushing the Federal Highway Administration to create an Interchange at I75 and Old Grassdale Road in Bartow County,” the letter reads. “The route of 411 Highway would basically run due East from where it now ends and intersect with I75 at Old Grassdale Road.”
Listed benefits of the Old Grassdale connector included unlocking manufacturing in the region, relieving congestion and possibly creating a megasite on I-75.
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor said he thought it was the best option for the county.
“Back in the day, this was the original route for the 411 connector, and it was going to come out right in front of Anheuser-Busch. So the route was changed. Federal highway [officials] changed the route to go another direction, and of course, a lot of obstacles popped up. So now we’re back to this route, which in my personal opinion is the best route for the community,” he said.
The connector would create an interchange at the Old Grassdale I-75 overpass. Having the new on and off ramps would be a large economic benefit, Taylor believed.
“The big benefit for Bartow County, of course, would be an exit on I-75 opening up industrial properties for economic development, and of course, the big benefit for Floyd County would be it would give them a direct route to 75, a shorter route,” he said. “So I see a mutual benefit from both communities — as this route, not necessarily any route that would come through, but this route for sure helps Bartow as well as Floyd County.”
Having another I-75 exit in that location, Taylor continued, would allow companies in the area, such as Anheuser-Busch and Gerdau Steel, more direct access to the interstate.
“If we had an interchange at Old Grassdale Road, that would open up, of course, the east side of the interstate as far as Anheuser-Busch [goes], but the west side of the interstate with the steel mill, Gerdau and Trinity Rail,” Taylor said. “Both of those companies could benefit greatly by having an exit on 75 rather than going up two-lane county roads all the way back to Cass-White exit going north, or all the way down to Highway 411 going out the south end. So ... it would be great to get them off the county roads.
“... That exit just opens up so many opportunities for the community. ... Cass High School is over there now and I’d say at least over 50 percent of the student population in Cass High comes from the western side of the interstate there, from the Cassville area there. That would open another shortcut, so to speak, for the students to get to Cass High School.”
However, Taylor said there was still much work to be done, and he declined to estimate any sort of timeline for when the project could begin. He cited a number of obstacles the project may have, including traffic, environmental and economic studies to name a few.
“This is very exciting for us if we can keep the momentum going. There’s a lot more discussions that will have to take place when you get past both communities supporting it, of course. Then we have to have the support of the state and federal folks just to get this thing going. We realize there’s a lot of hurdles to jump before it really takes place,” Taylor said.
Harris believed the connector would be a quality-of-life improvement for the county, as it could serve to improve traffic flow.
“If you do this right, it will be a long-time, quality-of-life thing for our kids and grandkids,” he said.
Taylor, even while acknowledging the length of time it could take to build the connector, looked ahead to what it could do for county economically.
“It’s just really — this is huge. If this could happen, this could be huge. What could be huge for Bartow is if we get an exit at Busch, you’re talking about a megasite. There’s only like one in Georgia, a real, true megasite, and that’s down in south Georgia, I think, on 16 going to Savannah,” he said.
A megasite, Taylor explained, is a 1,000-acre parcel of land with sewer, water and rail service that has immediate access to the interstate.
While Taylor was enthusiastic for the connector’s potential in Bartow County, he said he was sympathetic to Floyd County’s desire for I-75 access.
“I think we’ve got good relations with Floyd County. I can feel their pain as far as wanting direct access to 75. They have to come through many traffic lights and fight traffic for probably six or seven miles just to get to 75 once they get into Cartersville,” he said. “I understand their wants and needs, as far as access to 75. It’s not something we certainly have even thought about blocking, but I’m sensitive to their needs and I’m sure they are to ours also. We have a good relationship with Floyd County.”