by: Tom Regan Updated:CANTON, Ga. —
The Georgia Department of Transportation is studying plans to widen State Route 20 from Cumming to Canton or build a new highway to the north or south of the existing road, which is only two lanes on many stretches.
"We know that State Route 20 has reached its
capacity, and in the future, as that area continues to grow, that's one of the biggest growth areas in our state and it will only get worse," said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale.
Dale said the aim of the highway corridor improvement project is to ease congestion and improve safety.
She said a decision on which option to pursue is years away and will include an environmental impact study and input from the communities near the route.
The Highway 20 Coalition, a group of homeowners and businesses concerned about the project, favors improvements of the existing highway, but is opposed to building a new roadway.
One of two proposed paths under consideration is near the path of the former Northern Arc, a project dropped as the result of budget constraints and public opposition.
"We are opposed to the construction of new roads. This is nothing more than the GDOT implementing ARC proposals to build more asphalt lanes on cheap land here, and take truck traffic off of I-285," said Highway 20 Coalition Chairman Robert Chambers.
Chambers told Channel 2's Tom Regan a new highway could lead to acquisition of well over 1,000 homes in Cherokee and Forsyth counties. He said one possible highway route would bring it near schools and impact home values and the rural quality of life.
"A neighbor two doors down bought a house. The next week, they discovered this road may take their house," Chambers said.
Chambers lives in a subdivision that he says would be in the path of a proposed highway south of Route 20. Nearby there are stables for boarding horses.
Another resident said she too is concerned about the possible impact of a new road.
"It looks like a reincarnation of the old project that people didn't want back then. It would destroy the atmosphere up here. It just wouldn't have that country feel if there are trucks coming through all the time," resident Madison Hahn said.
GDOT said it will weigh all factors before making a decision on the project, which involves federal funding.
"We're looking at how communities are affected, looking at how streams and land are affected. We are in the preliminary stages. We do want to hear. We always have a no-build option on the table. We have many alternatives on the table," Dale said.
Dale said GDOT will hold more public hearings about the project this year. A decision is expected by 2018.