HIGHWAY 78 CID HISTORY
Now the Evermore CID
Highway 78 from the DeKalb County line in Stone Mountain through the center of Snellville to the Walton County line in Loganville has undergone tremendous change over the past thirty years. Today more than 50,000 vehicles travel this dangerous stretch of road each day. A daily traffic count of as many as 70,000 vehicles is expected by 2010.
In 1989 the Georgia Department of Transportation "temporarily" installed a reversible lane system in the section of 78 between Stone Mountain and Highway 124. This is a rather confusing system in which the two center lanes of the six-lane road changed direction via overhead traffic signals twice each day to accommodate rush hour traffic into and out of Atlanta.
Though the reversible lanes were to be replaced by a safer system by 1993, public objections to medians or other methods of increasing both traffic count and safety were rejected by area residents and businesses. They had experienced nearby Memorial Drive's decline in the 1980s after a median was installed between I-285 and Stone Mountain in DeKalb County.
Those who were against the median on Highway 78 failed to recognize that the failure of Memorial Drive was due to a combination horrendous planning and development policies by DeKalb County, over-saturation of apartments and low income housing, shifting demographic trends, a mass movement of money and business from DeKalb into Gwinnett, and a total lack of coordination and communication between the businesses, community leaders and county planners. It was 'every man for himself and the heck with the neighborhood' on once-beautiful Memorial Drive. Gwinnett residents and businesses did not want this kind of disaster to befall Highway 78 as well.
Soon the accident injury and fatality rate per mile in the seven mile stretch of Highway 78 between Stone Mountain and Snellville was among the highest in the Georgia, and even highlighted on a nationally televised news report about the most dangerous roads in the United States. Many residents began to avoid the confusing overhead directional arrows and the chance of encountering head-on traffic in the "Suicide Lanes" on Highway 78. Even experienced mixed-lane drivers were being maimed and killed.
Finally, in 2000, the Georgia DOT announced that a median would be installed on Highway 78 within five years. The consensus of folks attending a summer 2001 hearing at Shiloh High School to review the proposed median was that it was far overdue, and even though their particular street or driveway may become less accessible, at least their families and customers would be safer.
In January of 2002, at a Chamber of Commerce transportation update meeting, a handful of Highway 78 property owners decided to organize as a singular voice to political officials so the Memorial Drive disaster would not be repeated. This core planning group included property owners W. H. Britt, David Hunt, Kenny King, Emory Morsberger, Art Mezzullo, Nancy Patel, Ramon Patel and Art Rilling. The core group planned an initial mass meeting of the 330 owners fronting Highway 78 between DeKalb County and and Highway 124.
In February 2002, property owners along the Highway 78 corridor in Gwinnett County joined together to form the Highway 78 Corridor Improvement Association (the Association). On April 30, 2003, the combined efforts of 376 private property and business owners gained approval from the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners and the City Council in Snellville and became the Hwy. 78 Community Improvement District. CID status provides our group self-taxing powers to raise revenues to enhance the 7-mile corridor from Snellville to the Gwinnett-DeKalb line near Stone Mountain.
The association set the following goals:
- Develop and aid in the implementation of a long-term positive plan for the Highway 78 Corridor.
- Coordinate the median installation so that it benefits surrounding business and residential areas.
- Investigate landscaping along the median.
- Turn 78 into an upscale destination rather than a road to somewhere else.
- Investigate services to 78 owners, possibly including security and joint marketing efforts.
- Maintain communications between property owners, business owners, community leaders, and state, county and local officials.
The first Highway 78 Corridor Improvement Association meeting on February 28 was attended by 75 property owners and officials. The overall attitude was excellent. Nearly everyone agreed that the association plans were good. A vote to immediately incorporate passed unanimously. As discussion of association funding was beginning, Bill Gower, manager of the Brand Bank Branch in Snellville, astounded the group when he committed to contribute $10,000 as soon as the association was incorporated. Gower stated that Brand had a long-term commitment to its customers and neighbors, and wanted them to continue thriving as the Highway 78 corridor evolved.
Many of the Highway 78 landowners in attendance were even more eager than the core coordinating committee to upgrade the appearance of Highway 78. Positive discussions of attractive medians and corridors in Alpharetta and upscale office parks and subdivisions went on for most of the meeting. The group voted to expand their membership to include owners of non-residential properties contiguous to Highway 78, as well as the initial 330 fronting owners. Only property owners will become members of the association.