The Cumberland Community Improvement District (CID) serves as a major commercial and entertainment activity center, and one of the largest employment centers in the state. Located along I-75 in the region's thriving northwest corridor, the Cumberland CID is experiencing major growth, including multiple class-A office towers, 84,000 jobs, and 30,000 residents, as well as the Atlanta Braves’ $1.3 billion stadium and The Battery Atlanta mixed-use development.
The Cumberland CID, a 6.5-square-mile area about 10 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta in unincorporated Cobb County, encircles the intersections of I-75, I-285, and US Highway 41. While the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes have provided significant benefits to those traveling I-75 and I-575, they did not initially offer immediate access for the 100,000-plus daily commuters traveling to and from the bustling Cumberland market. Drivers in search of an alternative have been forced to drive to different access points to the north, east, or west of Cumberland.
These issues will soon be a thing of the past, however, due to a major road project now under construction. GDOT's Akers Mill Ramp Project is adding a new reversible ramp at Akers Mill Road, located between I-75 northbound and southbound in Cobb County. It will serve as an exit ramp from the express lanes in the morning when the direction of travel is southbound and will serve as an entrance ramp to the express lanes system in the evening when the direction of travel is northbound. The ramp will be 24 feet wide for the reversible lanes plus break-down shoulders and will widen to 50 feet at Akers Mill Road. The project also includes safety gates at both ends of the ramp, directional signage, and new asphalt paving and striping.
Construction began in October 2021, and completion is scheduled for January 2025. The contract amount for the Akers Mill Ramp Project is approximately $23.4 million. The project is 0.75 miles in length. Primary contractor for the low-bid project is C.W. Matthews Contracting, Inc.
“The Akers Mill Ramp will complete the I-75 Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, providing a critical access point to help get people in and out of our community both effectively and safely,” said Adam Ross, Director of Public & Government Affairs with the Cumberland CID. “Cumberland is growing in all sectors, allowing the ramp to serve the thousands of businesses, residents, and visitors in the region. The new access ramp will be the newest of 12 access points for the express lanes.”
A C.W. Matthews spokesperson said that the project is being constructed in two stages. The first stage consists of construction of the new ramp in the median of I-75 and retrofitting the northern portion of the existing Akers Mill Road bridges with stronger main girders to support the added wing beams that will be used to tie Akers Mill Road into the new express lane ramp. The second stage consists of constructing over 2,100 linear feet of median barrier from the existing express lane exit on I-75 southbound past the entrance for the new Akers Mill Road Ramp, along with resurfacing the interstate within the project limits.
The designer for the project is Parsons Corporation, according to GDOT representatives. Major subcontractors include Bonn-J Contracting, Brooks Berry Haynie, Gosalia Concrete Constructors, J.L. Davis Welding, and North Cherokee Electrical.
GDOT reports that the Akers Mill Ramp Project is a joint effort between several partners, including Cumberland CID, Cobb County, Georgia State Road & Tollway Authority, GDOT, Atlanta Regional Commission, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The company's spokesperson said that some less common construction strategies have been a part of the ramp project, including:
- A cantilever “needle beam” support system, installed to support the existing utilities in the north portion of the bridges
- A specialized erection plan, developed in order to splice the new continuous steel girders on the existing bridge and lift them into place without requiring any additional shoring towers on the existing interstate
- A Value Engineering Proposal, developed to retrofit an existing overhead sign structure containing tolling infrastructure — originally designed to be replaced — in order to produce savings for the department
C.W. Matthews is utilizing Link-Belt rough-terrain and crawler cranes, varying in size from 50-ton to 100-ton, on the project. Other equipment (of varying sizes) in use includes Caterpillar (CAT) dozers, backhoes, hoe rams, drill rigs, smooth drum and sheep's foot rollers and skid steer loaders, as well as JLG man lifts.
C.W. Matthews purchases cranes through Atlantic Southern Equipment. All CAT equipment is purchased through Yancey Bros. Co.
According to the company representative, work zones have been established with temporary barriers to reduce the amount of lane closures needed to construct the project. Interstate lane closures and traffic pacing are limited to mostly overhead work on the bridges and sign structures, as well as future construction of the median wall. There will also be intermittent lane closures/short term detours on Akers Mill Road to facilitate bridge construction.
The Cumberland area has a $23.6 billion annual impact on Georgia’s economy. It is home to major entertainment venues and major companies including the Atlanta Braves, Papa Johns, The Home Depot, Synovus, Comcast, TK Elevator, Cumberland Mall, Genuine Parts Company, and more.
The Cumberland CID's community redevelopment initiatives are focused on seven of eight allowable purposes outlined in the Georgia Constitution:
- Street and road construction and maintenance, including curbs, sidewalks, street lights, and devices to control the flow of traffic on streets and roads
- Parks and recreational areas and facilities
- Storm water and sewage collection and disposal systems
- Development, storage, treatment, purification, and distribution of water
- Public transportation, including, but not limited to, services intended to reduce the volume of automobile traffic, to transport two or more persons, to improve air quality, and to provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities and the operation of a Traffic Management Association or similar entity
- Terminal and dock facilities and parking facilities
- Planning, development, and improvement consistent with Cobb County’s coordinated and comprehensive planning
The Cumberland CID board raises funds by setting an ad valorem millage rate on real property, specifically excluding property used residentially. The Cumberland CID has set the millage rate at five mills, which is the maximum set by the Cobb County CID Act. (One mill is equal to $1 in property tax levied per $1,000 of a property's assessed value.) The millage rate is placed upon the regular tax bills sent by the Tax Commissioner, who transmits the collected taxes to the CID Board for expenditure in accordance with the purposes of the district.
The Akers Mill Ramp will provide the Express Lanes' final component — a new, critical access point. Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the ramp in October 2021, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said, “With travel times approximately 20 percent faster than the general-purpose lanes, the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes have transformed the way residents of Cobb and Cherokee counties commute to and from work along I-75. The Cumberland area has an annual economic impact of $20 billion on Georgia’s economy, and this new access point will provide safe and easy access to the Express Lanes for those who live and work here.”
John Shern, Chairman of the Cumberland CID Board of Directors, echoed the Governor's sentiments.
“Today’s groundbreaking is a marquee achievement for the Cumberland CID,” he said. “The Akers Mill Ramp will help get people in and out of our community both effectively and safely. It’s no secret that Cumberland is growing in all sectors, allowing the ramp to serve the thousands of businesses, residents, and visitors in the region. I’m proud of the Cumberland CID’s commitment to bring together the necessary partners and stakeholders to plan, fund, and construct successful projects like the Akers Mill Ramp to help enhance the future and success of Cumberland.”