Endangered bats delay road projects across Georgia

by: John Bachman Updated:

The two-lane stretch of road gets snarled during rush hour every day and the Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to widen it.

ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned bats are delaying dozens of local road projects and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

The bats are on the endangered species list and are delaying 58 road projects with another 50 that could be affected.

Highway 92 at the Cobb, Paulding county line is one of the many projects that are being affected.

The two-lane stretch of road gets snarled during rush hour every day and the Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to widen it.

"This needed to be widened a long time ago," driver Dennis Blanchard told Channel 2's John Bachman.

But the project has hit a tiny, nocturnal flying roadblock that is sure to drive drivers batty.

Bachman told Blanchard that the project was being held up because of bats.

"That's just impossible. That's not even right. Wow, got plenty of bats around here. I think some bats moved is fine with me," Blanchard said to Bachman.

The bat problem started with one rare sighting less than a year ago.

"Last summer a group that was studying them tracked a female Indiana bat into Gilmer County Georgia. First sighting since 1966," Jill Goldberg of the Georgia Department of Transportation said.

That sighting cost the state millions because the Indiana bat is an endangered species, which prompted an investigation.

GDOT has since learned the rare bats are spreading through north Georgia and pose a threat to 58 road projects already on the books, plus another possible 50 projects down the road.

At each one of those projects, the DOT will have to install nets and employ experts to trap and tag the bats.

"Right now, (we're) looking at between $80,000 to $120,000 for each project," Goldberg said.

That totals about $6 million just to see if there's a bat problem.

"I think government exists for people, not bats," driver Stacy Simmons said.

The DOT said the measures are a federal regulation, saying they have to study the bats and that the studies will push back projects by about nine months.

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