Stalled highway project fight costing taxpayers millions

by: John Bachman Updated:

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ATLANTA - Thorne Winter is the real estate manager for the Rollins family, who owns about 1,800 acres in Bartow County. 

They spent a lot of money to put a lake and other improvements on the land. The land, which has a wildlife bird refuge on it and an old mine site that is designated as a historical site.
 
However  a proposed 411 Connector cuts through the family's wood line, south of the lake and a large home.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s website, “The purpose of the proposed US 411 Connector is to provide a direct connection between US 411, at its interchange with US 41 west of Cartersville, and I-75; and to relieve congestion along the existing US 411/SR 20 to I-75 corridor.”
 
Winter showed Channel 2's John Bachman around the property. The family has spent decades and a lot of money fighting the state in court to keep the road off their property, and have often won.
 
"The biggest argument is that the proposed route costs over $100 million more than a reasonable alternative to gain only 24 seconds," said attorney Henry Parkman, who represents the Rollins family.
 
Before this legal battle began, the state proposed another route north of the Rollins property.  The family claims that original route is much cheaper to build and takes only 24 seconds longer to drive to I-75 than the current proposal through their land.
 
The Rollins family has a relatively new and unlikely ally in their fight.  David Doss is a former Georgia DOT board member who once wanted the connector built through the family's land, but now believes there is a better and faster route.  He also believes the current $200 million project isn't realistic.
 
"How is the best way to spend our limited resources for road construction?" said Doss.  "Is it on more studies?  Is it on more litigation?  Or is it finding a route that we can afford to build, and let's start putting down some asphalt?"
 
Bachman learned, even with the lengthy legal battle, the state is continuing with the proposal because of money. 

DOT spokeswoman Jill Goldberg told him, if the DOT does not exhaust all possibilities with the proposed route, the federal government could force it to pay back the millions of dollars federal officials spent studying the project.
 
"Well, that's certainly one thing," said Goldberg.  "It's there and it has to be factored in. It has to be considered, because it would be money that we would have to take away from other road projects."
 
Still, the Rollins family said it isn't backing down.
 
"We will not stop fighting this particular route," said Winter.  "No way are we against building the road, but we think the road needs to be put in a location that's a lot less money, and costs taxpayers less."