CANTON — The Georgia Department of Transportation predicts the number of vehicles using Highway 20 between Canton and Forsyth County will double by the year 2040.
Residents and display boards filled Calvary Baptist Church on Highway 20 Tuesday night for an informational meeting where the GDOT sought input from the community on how to address issues with the heavily traveled stretch of road.
Spokesperson for the Cherokee GDOT meeting, Mohamed Arafa, said they are in the “scoping” phase of a project on Highway 20. Arafa said 213 people attended the meeting, a high turnout compared to 148 people who attended a similar meeting in Cumming last Thursday.
“We came with no preconceived concept for the project. We came to hear from the people of Cherokee County,” Arafa said. “What issues they think are important to them, what transportation problems or traffic problems on SR 20 they are facing, and what they think about the solutions.”
He said there are no plans and the GDOT hoped to gather input from the community on what they see as major issues and possible solutions to problems on Highway 20. Arafa said 56 people participated by dropping surveys in the comment boxes provided at the meeting.
“We know that State Route 20 needs a lot of improvements to ease congestion, enhance safety and improve mobility in the area,” Arafa said. “We want to hear from the people, because they know what serves them better.”
Arafa said the GDOT is looking to improve about 25 miles of Highway 20 between Interstate 575 and Highway 400.
One of those in attendance, J.B. Owen, director of Advanced Ambulance Service, said there are too many choke spots on Highway 20 that pose a risk, especially during emergencies.
“They should’ve done this like they did (Highway) 92,” Owen said. “Made it four-lane divided.”
Owen lives in Cherokee and said he drives the length of Highway 20 about twice daily. He said that the “fiasco in front of Canton Marketplace” was a horrible design. “They didn’t think about the infrastructure,” Owen said. Owen said if they can’t make Highway 20 four lanes, he’d like to see turning lanes added.
Don Benson said he’s lived on Highway 20 since 1994 and his main concerns are rising accident rates, disregard for speed limits and safety for school buses operating along Highway 20.
“I personally would’ve liked to see the Northern Beltway put in,” Benson said. “The problem I had with the Northern Beltway, as they called it, is they seemed to want to run it through subdivisions.”
Benson said Tuesday he saw a semi-truck going “over 75 miles an hour in an intersection.”
“The number of accidents that I witnessed of people making a left-hand turn into (Shady Lane) subdivision was probably on the average of once a week,” Benson said.
Stephanie Bishop lives in Ball Ground off of Highway 20 and volunteers in Cumming. Bishop said a major need on Highway 20 was a traffic light at the SR 369 intersection.
“I hope they don’t rip through the community,” Bishop said. “I want them to leave it small town; we like the character.”
Multiple people voiced their concern over what one called “illogically put-together” bike lanes. Darla Alfredson lives in Macedonia with a driveway off of Highway 20 and said she wants to see the road widened to four lanes, turning lanes added and bike lanes removed.
Another person who attended the meeting who lives between Free Home and Ball Ground, Gary Hite, said consideration of the land owners is an important thing to consider.
“I don’t want to see this as the substitute for the Northern Arc, which I never agreed to,” Hite said. “I don’t want to see this become Cobb Parkway or something like that, I want to keep it rural.”
Hite said the three major problems he saw are the choke point in front of the Canton Marketplace, the intersection at east Cherokee and Highway 20 and the intersection of SR 372 and Highway 20.
“I think what they’ve done already is a huge improvement,” Hite said. “I think (if they did the same thing all the way across Highway 20) it would facilitate traffic a great deal.”
Arafa said that based on the meeting in Cumming, most people wanted to see the road widened to carry a higher capacity of vehicles.
He also said there are more than 160 traffic signals on Highway 20 between I-575 and SR 400, and 40 percent of the lights have higher crash rates than the state average. Arafa said “safety is the main concern.”
Arafa said that in July the GDOT will complete a current project, adding about 4.3 miles of truck passing lanes on Highway 20 west of Union Hill Road extending to Greenwood Court.
Arafa said public comments will be included in the project development process and that public concerns “can and will make a difference” in the planning process.
Arafa said the environmental work preceding the project will take around five years.
Early in May, Arafa told the Tribune that the entire project would take around 10 years to complete because of various regulations that must be adhered to in order to gain about 80 percent of the cost of the project in federal funding.
The survey is available online at www.dot.ga.gov
/sr20improvements until May 31 and comments may also be emailed to SR20improvements.dot.ga.gov.