An illustration of the 5-legged roundabout in southwest DeKalb County at the intersection of Constitution, Woodstock and Fayetteville roads, Fleetwood Drive and Bailey Street. Moreland Avenue is in the top left corner. Blackhall Studios is not shown in this image, located further right off Fayetteville Road where it intersects with Constitution Road. (Metro South Community Improvement District)

Transportation projects are planned in DeKalb County to create smoother and safer routes for large trucks and cars to travel as new economic development — specifically the massive and controversial expansion of Blackhall Studios — comes to the area just south of East Atlanta.

The Metro South Community Improvement District announced April 15 the start of the design phase of the $4.9 million “Constitution Road Freight Corridor Improvement Corridor Project.” Plans include a large, 5-legged truck roundabout at the intersections of Bailey Street, Fleetwood Drive, and Constitution, Woodstock and Fayetteville roads. A traffic signal at the Moreland Avenue and Bailey Street intersection, roadway lighting and access to MARTA bus stops are also planned.

The Metro CID announcement was made during a press conference at the site where the roundabout is planned as large trucks rumbled by. It came a day after the Decide DeKalb Development Authority approved a $68 million incentive package to Blackhall Studios. Blackhall opened in DeKalb County in 2017 and is one of the largest film complexes in Georgia. It covers more than 160 acres off Constitution Road and includes nine soundstages where movies such as “Godzilla” and “Doctor Sleep” have filmed.

The film studio’s $380 million expansion will add 26 more soundstages, making it one of the largest film complexes in the southeast. The expansion is the largest investment made in south DeKalb and is expected to create more than 2,400 jobs. Blackhall is a member of the Metro South CID.

“In the film business, about 10% of every film budget goes toward the transportation department,” said Blackhall’s Jeff Weber at the press conference. Weber is overseeing the studio’s expansion.

“Moving things around, moving people around, it’s all a very, very big part of who we are and what we do, and to have an infrastructure that’s going to accommodate that movement is very important,” Weber said.

Jeff Weber, project coordinator for Blackhall Studios’ expansion in southwest DeKalb County, praised plans for a truck roundabout during an April 15 Metro South Community Improvement District press conference. Credit: Dyana Bagby

The Metro South CID includes much of Moreland Avenue south of Custer Avenue and surrounding I-285 and the I-675 interchanges. It is known as “Truckers Alley” because of the many logistics and transportation companies located there, said Larry Kaiser, president of the Metro South CID. They include UPS Freight, FedEx Freight, an Amazon warehouse as well as Blackhall.

Truck volume on Moreland Avenue right now ranges from 2,800 to 3,800 trucks per day near I-285. The Blackhall expansion as well as more industrial and logistics development is expected to increase truck traffic significantly over the next few years.

“These are very transformative changes,” Kaiser said of the roundabout and other plans at the press conference.

Joe Perry, who lives on Flat Shoals Road, heckled Weber about Blackhall’s plans to raze dozens of acres of trees for its expansion. A DeKalb police officer escorted him away.

“They are celebrating the destroying of a forest,” Peery said after the press conference.

Peery is a member of the South River Forest Coalition. The group and the South River Watershed Alliance are suing the county over its decision to swap 40 acres of existing parkland to Blackhall Studios in exchange for 53 acres that the county says it will convert into a new park.

Alison Clark, chair of the Southwest DeKalb Neighborhood Alliance, lives near the studio and has been working with the Metro South CID on planning the freight corridor project.

“I’m excited about all of the development that’s coming to the area,” she said. “Our area has been ignored for quite some time.”

Construction on the freight corridor project could begin by late 2023. DeKalb County approved more than $3.6 million from its SPLOST fund for the project. The Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank is funding another $1 million and Metro South CID is putting in $200,000.

DeKalb County Commissioners Larry Johnson, at podium, said at an April 15 press conference planned transportation projects in southwest DeKalb are crucial to the region’s trucking and logistics businesses. He also praised the Blackhall Studios expansion as a way to lay the foundation for more restaurants and grocery stores to the area. (Dyana Bagby)

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.