How did South Cobb Drive begin? Bell Bomber and the speedy wartime construction of a highway

Road sign at South Cobb Drive near Cooper Lake Road in article about South Cobb Drive overnight lane closures (photo by Larry Johnson, Cobb County Courier, CC 4.0)South Cobb Drive road sign (photo by Larry Johnson, Cobb County Courier, CC 4.0)


South Cobb Drive has been a major commercial and commuter highway in Cobb County since the mid-1940s. In fact, until the 1940s, South Cobb Drive, or SR 280 did not even exist.

In December of 1941, after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II.  The entire nation, including Atlanta and its surrounding area, was mobilized for the war effort. 

In February of 1942, the plans for the construction of the Bell Bomber plant were announced after Marietta won out over East Point and Stone Mountain in competition for the plant’s location. 

By March of 1943, the plant began building the B-29 bomber.  According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the workforce at the plant grew to over 28,000 by 1945.

A B-29, photo taken at an unknown date in the 1940s (public domain)

The state determined that a new highway was necessary to transport workers and goods from Atlanta.  At that point, the current Atlanta Road (then called Marietta-Atlanta Road) was the main route from Atlanta to Marietta.

It was determined that Marietta-Atlanta Road was not sufficient to handle the increased traffic of supplies and personnel. So a road was designed that would run roughly parallel to Marietta-Atlanta Road, make a sharp turn near Bell Bomber, and connect the two roads at the entrance to the plant.

South Cobb Drive from a narrow shoulder facing oncoming traffic
A recent shot of South Cobb Drive from a narrow shoulder facing oncoming traffic in Smyrna (Photo by Larry Felton Johnson/Cobb County Courier)

An article in the Atlanta Constitution in April of 1942 reported on the laying of water pipe along what it simply described as “the new Marietta highway.”  Another article in July of 1943 said that construction would be completed by October of that year.  It described the road as follows:

“The road leading from Bolton crosses the Chattahoochee River, skirts Smyrna and Fair Oaks, and leads into the old Atlanta-Marietta Road, about one-fourth mile from the Marietta city limit. The road leads directly to the main gate of the Bell plant, and is approximately 12 miles long”

The Chattahoochee River just south of the GA 280/South Cobb Drive crossing

That road became State Road 280, now known as South Cobb Drive.  It’s an important transportation corridor and commercial highway for dozens of communities in Cobb County.  But it got its start as a single-purpose road, to connect Atlanta with a wartime bomber factory.